I know, two 2L Recordings in a row, but this is the best time to listen to the latest releases from this Norwegian label–in the middle of the winter. I managed to escape the last winter blast during the holidays by heading out to a surprisingly mild coast, so I haven’t seen a lot of snow on the ground yet. (At least in the real world.) Then I dove into the white stuff, metaphorically that is, by listening to the expansive and frozen Lyden av Arktis. Now we have Yggdrasil by Cantus, the Norwegian choir that has become a splendid 2L mainstay, which doesn’t capture the sounds of winter as much as the sound of the people who endure it. Now all I need is snow.
Yggdrasil by Cantus, as you might imagine, is based on Norse mythology–in this case, Yggdrasil as the “world tree” that connects us to each other all across the planet. The project was simple in origin: collect compositions from cultures that also respond to the idea of a world tree, and gather everyone in the same space to share these ideas.
Despite the fact that these individual songs are composed almost by committee, with different groups of people handling the lyrics, arrangements and melodies (not to mention the fact that many different languages are represented), Cantus brings a unity to the sound here, something more profound than just the interaction between the choir and the enormous Lademoen Church in Trondheim. So much ground is covered by these groups of voices, and in so many different ways. (These pieces were recorded between 2018 and 2021, with many singers participating over the years.) Voices throughout Yggdrasil by Cantus mimic sounds of nature, or even the murmuring of a large crowd, with uncommon focus.
Yggdrasil by Cantus is also a wonderful test of dynamic swings. This is one of those recordings where you should monitor the volume levels in advance. An individual voice may have no more impact than another person talking at the other end of a very large room, and another will rise in volume until it sounds like a siren and forces you to sit upright to acknowledge what has happened. It’s fairly obvious, at least to me, that no one captures the sound of a choir in a church like 2L, but there are points in Yggdrasil where you see those wooden rafters trying to contain all the energy within, and giving in to the sheer beauty of winter in 2023. I feel ready now.