The three women of the Norwegian Trio Mediaeval can look back proudly over 20 years of uncovering the often mysterious and mystical music written centuries before the cantatas of Bach or the masses of Palestrina.

Their sound has made them one of the most distinct voices on the ECM label with the cool vocal harmonies of Anna Maria Friman, Linn Andrea Fuglseth and Berit Opheim complemented by the raw beauty of Friman's Hardanger fiddle and the delicate pipings of Fuglseth's harmonium-like shruti box.

The group's latest disc, Rimur, travels to Iceland, exploring deep connections between that island and their own land, instigated more than a millennium ago by the 9th century explorer Ingolf Arnarson.

After several summers working alongside Arve Henriksen, a Norwegian trumpeter with the rare ability to draw flute-like sounds from his instrument, they have produced a CD they describe as "a unique set of songs where improvisation, mediaeval and traditional music from Iceland, Norway and Sweden meet the present."


This magical musical melding is heightened by a recording that capitalises on the resonant spaces of Munich's Himmelfahrtskirche, adding an other-worldly lustre to the women's voices, catching the ear from their opening hymn to the Swedish Saint Birgitta.

Seventeen haunting tracks encompass both the sacred and secular. At one point, a simple unison hymn to the Virgin Mary, punctuated by a hushed solo from Henriksen, is followed by a jaunty Swedish sea shanty, as much love song as an exhortation to shipboard industry.

Here there's an almost pop-styled innocence in the rhythmic backing of fiddle and shruti box, although unexpected curls and twists in its melody take the listener back to times more remote and exotic, so beautifully laid out in this most exquisite of magical mystical tours.

What: Trio Mediaeval & Arve Henrisen, Rimur (ECM, through Ode Records)
Rating: 5/5
Verdict: Three Norwegian women take us on a Nordic magical mystical tour