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Art-pop ensemble music of inspired eclecticism and compelling poetry

Source: Songlines Magazine

Eclectic fado-pop in a Dutch tongue

Nynke Laverman is a big voice from a small country, which has an even smaller mother tongue. A native of Friesland in the north of Holland, she is one of the half million speakers of Frisian. She first achieved fame as a fado singer, though since then she's explored Mexican, Latin and electronic themes. Grammy Award-winning Javier Limón handles production duties here, setting her powerful voice against fascinating, fluid arrangements of flamenco guitar, bouzouki and oud, and percussionist Sytze Pruiksma's panoply of percussion and drones. Harmonium, marimba, dulcimer and the Dutch 16th-century stringed instrument noordse balkaare are all heard alongside flugelhorn and harmonica.

Opener 'Foarjiersfers' puts the album's theme of childbirth into motion, influenced by Nynke having recently become a mother. The natural processes of change are represented by the seasons. Natural imagery predominates: in the album's centrepiece 'Eftereach', written by the late Frisian poet Tsjêbbe Hettinga, we discover an ecstatic, child's-eye vision of the natural universe focused upon the flat meadowlands of Nynke's native landscape. 'Dance of the Seeds' is a paean to the coiled forces of spring unfurling across the landscape while 'Home', about the sense of place and self, features the flamenco vocals of Saul Quiros contrasting with Nynke's softer tones. Drawing on northern European and Mediterranean forms, Alter is quite unlike anything else out there – art-pop ensemble music of inspired eclecticism and compelling poetry.

Tim Cumming