The Land That Is Not

Sinikka Langeland

CD18,90 out of print

Further adventures at the interstices of folk music and jazz-rooted improvisation, as Sinikka Langeland takes the work begun on the much praised “Starflowers” to the next level. As the Irish Times’s Ray Comiskey noted of the earlier disc: “Sinikka Langeland is a gifted folk singer, but not one stifled by tradition. Her ability to work seamlessly with jazz musicians, as she does so memorably here, is part of the reason for the success of this marriage of folk, jazz and poetry. (…) Individually and collectively, the quintet is superb, Henriksen and Seim play brilliantly off the voice and each other, while the group catches a variety of moods persuasively; they can groove with understated power (…)” All of this applies with equal pertinence to “The Land That Is Not”.

Featured Artists Recorded

September 2010, Rainbow Studio, Oslo

Original Release Date


  • 1The Land That Is Not
    (Edith Södergran, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 2What Is Tomorrow
    (Edith Södergran, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 3A Strip Of Sea
    (Edith Södergran, Anders Jormin, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 4Triumph Of Being
    (Edith Södergran, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 5The River Murmurs
    (Olav H. Hauge, Anders Jormin, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 6Lucky Cat
    (Edith Södergran, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 7It's The Dream
    (Olav H. Hauge, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 8The Day Cools
    (Edith Södergran, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 9The Rose
    (Edith Södergran, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 10Spring In The Mountain
    (Olav H. Hauge, Sinikka Langeland)
  • 11Slowly The Truth Dawns
    (Olav H. Hauge, Sinikka Langeland)
Five years on from the delightful “Starflowers” the Norwegian folk singer Sinikka Langeland again enlists Nordic jazz musicians. This time most of the lyrics come from the poet Edith Södergran, her Swedish nostalgic yearning encapsulated in the blur of saxophone and trumpet that heralds “A Strip Of Sea”. Langeland’s kantele, a traditional zither, sparkles like a memory of Alice Coltrane.
Financial Times
Mit “The Land That Is Not” knüpft langeland an ihr ECM-Debüt “Starflowers” von 2006 an – und zwar mit denselben skandinavischen Musikern: Trygve Seim, Arve Henriksen, Anders Jormin und Markku Ounaskari. Dass Jazzmusiker den vagen Taktvorgaben der Langelandschen Musik weit besser entsprechen können als Folkmusiker, ist mit ein Grund, warum Langeland sich ihrer Band so verbunden fühlt. “The Land That Is Not” entwirft eine poeitsche traumwelt, die überraschend tragfähig ist.
From Norwegian folk singer and harpist Sinikka Langeland comes a seductively subtle contemporary jazz album. The lyrics are all Norwegian or Swedish (the sleeve notes have translations), and celebrate the poetry of Edith Södergran and Olav Håkonson Hauge... Langeland´s band brings together trumpet-player Arve Henriksen and saxophonist/composer Trygve Seim, and it´s a magical combination. Despite a predominant feeling of tranquility, the singer sometimes adds an almost Nina Simone-like bite, for which Seim´s smoky sound, Henriksen´s ghostly multiphonics and Anders Jormin´s bass are ideal foils. The mood is often broken by grooves that suggest some strange fjord-village cabaret music, or episodes that are like Nordic Miles Davis. It´s a real one-off.
John Fordham, The Guardian
Wie sich das Saxofon von Trygve Seim und die Trompete von Arve Henriksen fast zur Ununterscheidbarkeit verschränken, ist sensationell, zumal Schlagzeuger Markku Ounaskari ein dichtes Rhythmusgeflecht darunterlegt, das das Choralhafte der Bläser ziseliert umspielt. Die Musiker sind exponierte Vertreter des neuen Jazz aus dem Norden, jeder trat auch als Bandleader hervor. In diesem Falle ist ihre Funktion auch eine dienende, denn im Vordergrund zelebriert die Folk-Vokalistin und Kantele-Spielerin Sinikka Langeland Gedichte Edith Södergrans, die in Skandinavien die Moderne einleitete, und Olav H. Hauges, die die Natur besingen.
Ulrich Steinmetzger, Westdeutsche Allgemeine Zeitung
"Die neue CD entstand wieder mit den fantastischen `Starflowers´, also mit Arve Henriksen, Trygve Seim, Anders Jormin und Markku Ounaskari. Typisch für den Sound der Gruppe ist der ätherische Klang der Kantele, einer 15 saitigen finnischen Tischharfe, die Sinikka Langeland selbst spielt. `Eine ursprüngliche Musik, verwurzelt in meiner Heimat´ - so lautete das Ziel, das sich die Norwegerin setzte, die sich bei ihrer Quellenforschung immer tiefer ins Dunkel der Zeiten vorwagte. Umso aufregender ist, wie sie und ihre Mitspieler diese Suche nun vertonten. Geheime Träume, raue Zärtlichkeit, sehnsüchtiges Verlangen wehen durch diese Musik aus dem hohen Norden Europas. Die perfekte Platte für lange Winterabende."
Karl Lippegaus, Süddeutsche Zeitung
"Not quite a jazz album, this exquisite performance for voice, harp and period fiddles joins Susanna Wallumrød's light-touch singing and the evocative, interweaving lines and stately enunciation of Henry Purcell's 17th-century church and theatre music, some Wallumrød originals, two Leonard Cohen songs and Nick Drake's Which Will. It's a unique and audacious collaboration with baroque harpist Giovanna Pessi that has the makings of an unlikely cross-genre hit. Wallumrød's subtle delivery of contemporary lyrics such as "Who by barbiturate/ Who in these realms of love/ Who shall I say is calling" from Cohen's Who by Fire, or his chilling call-of-fate lines in You Know Who I Am, have an astonishing impact when set against the steady turns and rolls of Pessi's harp, Marco Ambrosini's keyed-fiddle nyckelharpa and Jane Achtman's viola de gamba. The latter has a cello's resonance at times, the harp a guitar's, and the quiet force of Wallumrød's personality within such a formal early-music structure is mesmerising."
John Fordham, The Guardian
 I long for the land that is not
for I am weary of desiring all things that are.
The moon tells me in silver runes
about the land that is not.
the land where all our wishes
are wondrously fulfilled,
the land where all our chains fall away,
the land where we cool our gashed foreheads
in the moon’s dew.
- Edith Södergran

Five years after her stunning ECM debut recording, here is a sequel with the same highly creative Norwegian-Finnish-Swedish personnel, once more engaged in adventures at the interstices of folk song, literature, and jazz-rooted improvisation, On “The Land That Is Not”, Norwegian singer and kantele player Sinikka Langeland builds upon the blueprint established with “Starflowers”. As the Irish Times’s Ray Comiskey noted of the earlier disc: “Sinikka Langeland is a gifted folk singer, but not one stifled by tradition. Her ability to work seamlessly with jazz musicians, as she does so memorably here, is part of the reason for the success of this marriage of folk, jazz and poetry. Individually and collectively, the quintet is superb, Henriksen and Seim play brilliantly off the voice and each other, while the group catches a variety of moods persuasively; they can groove with understated power”. All of which applies with equal pertinence to “The Land That Is Not”.

Indeed, the band is stronger now, the musicians having played concerts with Sinikka in the intervening years in diverse permutations and also strengthening their improvisational understanding with shared work in other contexts – Henriksen playing in Seim’s large ensemble, for instance, Seim and Ounaskari working together in Iro Haarla’s group, and so on, the circle of influence continuing to widen. And Anders Jormin, who has been Sinikka’s preferred bassist since the mid-1990s, also contributes as co-composer of two pieces here.

For their new quintet recording, Sinikka takes as her inspirational starting point poetry of Edith Södergran (1892-1923) and Olav Håkonson Hauge (1908-1994). Södergran, Swedish-speaking poet in Raivola, near St Petersburg, counts now as one of the pioneers of modernist Swedish poetry, but in a brief life terminated by tuberculosis lived to see little recognition for her work. “The Land That is Not” (“Landet som icke är”) was amongst her last poems, and has been compared to Chuang-Tzu’s “Homeland of Nothing Whatsoever”, a work of spiritual detachment, claiming its distance from the chaos of human society.
Södergran, isolated by circumstance, turned her loneliness to artistic advantage in her verse. The Norwegian Olav Håkonson Hauge, who similarly influenced a line of modern writers, was also a poet of solitude with an affinity for far eastern verse, and the way in which he can convey a landscape in a few words has some of the taut economy of the Zen poets. Hauge, who lived his whole life in Ulvik, supporting himself as a fruit farmer, began to publish poems in the 1940s. With both Södergran and Hauge, in the verses set to music here, there are thematic connections to Hans Børli, the lumberjack poet of the Norwegian forest, whom Sinikka celebrated on “Starflowers”. In these recordings independent voices answer to independent voices…and there is a freedom in the moments when Sinikka is alone and unaccompanied, just as there is in the group improvising that arises so naturally out of the song structures.

Born in 1961 in Finnskogen, Sinikka Langeland has been playing the kantele, the Finnish table harp, since the early 1980s when she began to expand her ‘folk’ repertoire to include rune songs, incantations, and old melodies from Finland and Karelia, as well as medieval ballads and religious songs. Recognising early on some affinities between the “sense of space and nature and timelessness” in new Nordic jazz improvisation and her own quest for a rooted original music incorporating folk elements, she has also remained alert to the characteristics that separate the genres, as she pointed out when “Starflowers” was released: “One of the central issues of working with jazz musicians as opposed to traditional folk musicians is the different feeling for time. The pulsations of the old folk music, the organic, breathing, asymmetric rhythms that we have in the polskas are quite different from modern popular music which is nearly all in 2 or 4. So a lot of adjustment is necessary. Anders Jormin is very aware of this, and Markku Ounaskari is coming closer and closer to the true pulsations of the polskas, remarkably close for a jazz player. But at the same time I want to allow myself to be influenced by his way of hearing and feeling the music”.

All participants have had ECM projects of their own since “Starflowers”. Markku Ounaskari recently issued “Kuára”, featuring his new trio with Samuli Mikkonen and Per Jørgensen in improvisations on Russian psalms and Fenno-Ugrian folk songs. Trygve Seim’s last disc was “Purcor” with pianist Andreas Utnem, cross-referencing improvised church music with folk music and theatre music. Arve Henriksen’s “Cartography” proposed an even broader map of moods and sounds, embracing everything from medieval song to sampling and sound-processing. Anders Jormin, meanwhile, has a newly-recorded project based around ancient Latin texts. Every one of these players has travelled quite some distance from conventional definitions of jazz tradition.

The third of her ECM releases, Sinikka’s “The Land that is Not” follows “Starflowers” (recorded 2006) and “Maria’s Song” (2008), the latter with Langeland in the company of two distinguished classical musicians, violist Lars Anders Tomter and organist Kåre Nordstoga, on a mission to restore Marian texts to sacred music, weaving folk melodies in between the timeless strains of Johann Sebastian Bach, and drawing on the Gospel of St Luke for her images of the Holy Mother. Like “Starflowers” well-received by the international press, “Maria’s Song” brought Langeland’s music to a new audience and was an Editor’s Choice selection in Classic FM magazine.
2024May 30tbaStavanger, Norway
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