Fivrel is Jostein Avdem Fretland, a 22 year old Norwegian currently in London, studying postgraduate composition at Goldsmiths. His online biography describes growing up on a small farm in Norway “where the massive sognefjord meets the mountains” (if you’re at all prone to wanderlust, and haven’t already ‘done’ Norway, I suggest you don’t look it up on a map unless you’re free to travel), a youth spent “playing the piano instead of football”, and how, “when fourteen, he met the love of his life and never recovered”.
This thumbnail-sketch idyll carries over into Fretland’s description of inspiration found in “happy drunk friends” and “what melodies turn up in my mind when I hear the sound of my girlfriend sleeping”. If these descriptions seem unusually intimate, and perhaps even a tad naïve, then they accurately convey a sense of Fretland’s music. Yet those qualities are balanced by the meticulous compositional authority with which the seven tracks on the e.p. have been constructed.
The minimalist and intimate e.p., which is 25 minutes long, was recorded domestically, overlaying acoustic instruments (piano, flute) with organ and domestic sound recordings. Describing “Andre Rom” (the second room), he says: “The rumbling noise – often mistaken for thunder – actually is the sound of our small table fan, and…the first melody is played on a toy melodica my girlfriend got me from a flee market.” Although the only influences Fretland cites are Bach and Steve Reich, Fivrel music evokes a pastoral electronica of the 70s that I’m not sure ever existed.
Some tracks envelop recordings of Fretland’s friend’s conversations, to which we become intimates. Take “Kyrie, for instance, of which he says: “The recordings are all done at the old house…where my girlfriend and I lived with a couple of friends last summer. We spoke about all kinds of things and I recorded without them knowing”; or “Stig!”, on which a “very sweet” girl called Heidi “talks to her best friend about boys and how they are going to lie in bed and listen to music when she gets home”. It’s nice to have these insights, since I don’t understand Norwegian, yet the cadences of the language are enough to convey the specificity of a track’s mood without weighing it down with precise meaning, and I think I prefer it that way.
Four of the e.p.’s seven tracks can be heard in full on the Fivrel website, and you buy a copy there too. I recommend it. It sounds much better on a half-decent stereo than any self-produced (as I assume it is) disc ought to, and it’s become one I often listen to, mostly either late at night or early in the morning; a convincingly mature work, for all its encapsulation of innocence.