Sinikka Langeland – The Half-Finished Heaven

half-finished heaven(ECM 377 7155)

When I was at university in South Africa back at the beginning of the 1970s I hung around with a crowd that showed deep devotion to smoking dagga (marijuana) but rejected completely the drinking of alcohol. There was this quaint notion that dagga was natural, organic and a pure, enlightening high, whereas alcohol was man-made, corrupting and led to human debasement. All wonderfully naïve.

My friends would have loved this album. It has that kind of organic, natural quality about it. The lyrics – “the transparent dragon of sunlight”, “everything begins to look around, we walk in the sun in hundreds”, “there’s a tree walking around in the rain” – would have had them nodding in respectful agreement and muttered “Wow, man, that’s heavy truth there”. And as for saxophonist Trygve Seim’s nipple-length hair and beard – such freakflag-waving would have earned him deep respect.

Sinikka Langeland

Sinikka Langeland

I hope that any tone of affectionate mockery here will be seen as directed to my friends and I when we were 19-year-old hippies and not to this truly exquisite album from the kantele player and singer Sinikka Langeland, Seim, viola-player Lars Anders Tomter and percussionist Markku Ounaskari.

Over 12 tracks – just three with words, all from Tomas Tranströmer – the four musicians maintain a quietly, delicately controlled strength of purpose in their search for some kind of essence of expression and articulation of natural beauty. The songs have titles like The Woodcock’s Flight, The Magical Bird, Animal Moment and The Light Streams In; their melodies are often achingly beautiful.

The kantele (a Finnish instrument of the dulcimer/zither family) sparkles like frost on the dark, smooth  bark of the viola, while Seim’s rich tone is loamily fertile and Ounaskari adds the shafts of sunlight with his cymbals.

Richly beautiful and natural music inviting quiet meditation (preferably with your back against a tree in the middle of a forest).



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