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Pust

Julero (2011)

4.7

November 30, 2012

Tuning / Blend 5.0
Energy / Intensity 4.3
Innovation / Creativity 4.7
Soloists 4.7
Sound / Production 4.7
Repeat Listenability 4.7
Tracks
1 Deilig er jorden 5.0
2 Et barn er født i Betlehem 4.7
3 Vidder 4.7
4 Kling no klokka 5.0
5 Jeg synger julekvad 4.7
6 Romjulsdrøm 4.7
7 O helga natt 4.7
8 Nordnorsk julesalme 4.7
9 I et lite hus 4.7
10 Mitt hjerte alltid vanker 4.7
11 Hverdagssorgene, glem dem alle 4.3
12 Mens byen gleder seg 4.7
13 Sæle jolekveld 4.7
14 Himlens nåde 4.7
15 Stille natt 5.0

Recorded 2011
Total time: 49:43, 15 songs


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Deilig er jorden 5
2 Et barn er født i Betlehem 5
3 Vidder 5
4 Kling no klokka 5
5 Jeg synger julekvad 5
6 Romjulsdrøm 5
7 O helga natt 5
8 Nordnorsk julesalme 5
9 I et lite hus 5
10 Mitt hjerte alltid vanker 5
11 Hverdagssorgene, glem dem alle 5
12 Mens byen gleder seg 5
13 Sæle jolekveld 5
14 Himlens nåde 5
15 Stille natt 5

I am in love with this album. It is the first a cappella album in ages that I have wanted to listen to for its own sake. If Pust hadn't sent it to me, I would buy it, it's that good.

It's true, Julero is a Christmas album. It's true, some of the melodies are obviously Christmas, but on the bright side, no one's singing in English. This means if you listen out of season, you're unlikely to be busted, unless your friends are real choral music nerds — and in that case they'll like it anyway.

The first few times I listened, I rarely made it past Et barn er født i Bethlehem. It's so beautiful and so unassuming. It grows seamlessly out of the hymn-like Deilig er jorden. After a few listens I realized it's a translation of A Child Is Born In Bethlehem that many of us probably sang here or there or somewhere. But this arrangement, by the group's baritone, is marvelous. The "alleluia"s are divine, a thing of their own. The rest of the song is also wonderfully performed. I want this song to settle around me in the winter chill. I want it with me. That's a musical glow, and not to be taken lightly.

Even the appropriations won me over. Himlens nåde is lovely. The liner notes say it's a translation of an Amy Grant song — well fabulous. Amy might be worth another listen. The American theme carries through to the final track, a Norwegian translation of Silent Night that has a bit of a Happy Trails vibe to it. Still it's pretty and I would not be embarrassed if anyone walked in on me listening.

Julero does a brilliant job merging the familiar and the new. O Holy Night is beautiful and wordless — O helga natt, I suppose — but you'll know it and you'll love it here. The original carols also sound familiar and refreshed at once: I et lite hus and Mens byen gleder seg were the pair that resonated with me, like I'd known them all my life, but listen to this album four or five times and you might find your own.

Pust has phenomenal singers, all of them. Julero makes the most of its Norwegian heritage for listeners around the world, and I think anyone would benefit from having this recording in their collection.


Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 5
Innovation / Creativity 5
Soloists 5
Sound / Production 5
Repeat Listenability 5
Tracks
1 Deilig er jorden 5
2 Et barn er født i Betlehem 5
3 Vidder 5
4 Kling no klokka 5
5 Jeg synger julekvad 5
6 Romjulsdrøm 5
7 O helga natt 5
8 Nordnorsk julesalme 5
9 I et lite hus 5
10 Mitt hjerte alltid vanker 5
11 Hverdagssorgene, glem dem alle 4
12 Mens byen gleder seg 5
13 Sæle jolekveld 5
14 Himlens nåde 5
15 Stille natt 5

Julero has a way of making you still. Translating to "Christmas calm", Julero starts gently and closes gently, and the music throughout is so ethereal, so curiously unique and gorgeous, that engaged silence results. What a testament to the talent and risk-taking of Norway's Pust, a group I've long considered myself privileged to hear. With its Christmas offering, Pust captures the holiday spirit in the most beautiful of ways: no loud sleigh bells and garish ho-ho-ho's, just images of angels singing from above, holy journeys, and country homes buried in the snow (supplemental notes and partial translations are available here, though there are also a few traditional pieces the world knows like Silent Night). There may be a language barrier, but there won't be a music barrier: this is a collection of extremely fine music performed by the best around, made to be enjoyed by all. It'll feel familiar to you, like going home for the holidays, but it'll also feel so fresh to you, in ways best heard. 

This album is a very successful statement in maximizing minimal approaches. Production is incredibly light. The arrangements, sometimes startlingly so, are sparse and very selective instead of packed and cluttered — the melody for Oh Holy Night (O helga natt) is sung simply on "ooo" for the entire duration of the song; can you imagine the dull result from a weaker group? Percussion is absent, but the music so strongly captivates with rhythm and bounce (I et lite hus) and forward pushing movement (Nordnorsk julesalme) that percussion isn't missed. And oh, that blend: it's spot on throughout, and with moments of total awe (like the chorus of Himlens nåde). So yes, the result from this focused arrangement style and light production means that the vocals, the crazy-talented vocals, get to own the show with dramatic dynamics, exquisite phrasing, evolving stylings, and the best non-artificial blend out there. Arrangers: this entire disc is the perfect example of doing more, a lot more, with less. Throwing in every trick you've got isn't the answer; owning the music like this is the answer. Pust even manages to manipulate air to create atmosphere on Mens byen gleder seg. In summation, the members of Pust are a cappella heroes. 

For me, Julero is Pust's finest work, and among the best a cappella out there. This is must-own material, no doubt. 

 

Tuning / Blend 5
Energy / Intensity 3
Innovation / Creativity 4
Soloists 4
Sound / Production 4
Repeat Listenability 4
Tracks
1 Deilig er jorden 5
2 Et barn er født i Betlehem 4
3 Vidder 4
4 Kling no klokka 5
5 Jeg synger julekvad 4
6 Romjulsdrøm 4
7 O helga natt 4
8 Nordnorsk julesalme 4
9 I et lite hus 4
10 Mitt hjerte alltid vanker 4
11 Hverdagssorgene, glem dem alle 4
12 Mens byen gleder seg 4
13 Sæle jolekveld 4
14 Himlens nåde 4
15 Stille natt 5

The singers of Pust know what they want to sound like, what type of songs they want to sing, and most importantly, know exactly how to to achieve these goals. A sextet hailing from Norway, these six singers have crafted a quiet, lovely album, one that is a bit narrow but does exactly what it sets out to do. Julero will most likely be off the beaten path for American listeners, but it’s a journey worth taking, particularly if you prefer your a cappella unique, fragile, and intimate.

First thing’s first: Julero is a Christmas album, and Pust is evoking a very specific Christmas mood with these tracks. Think blue and white lights, evenings with a heavy, silent snowfall, and a single candle in the window. As Pust only features six voices, the group relies on its seamless blend, powerful dynamics, and intriguing chord changes to keep listeners interested. Highlights include the haunting harmonies in Mitt hjerte alltid vanker, and the soaring soprano line in Kling no klokka and I et lite hus, featuring a slightly faster pace and sweet tone that's a breath of fresh air. There are even some well-known tunes for those who want a little familiarity: Deilig er jorden is the Norwegian language translation of Beautiful Savior; listeners will recognize O helga natt as O Holy Night; and the album closes on an appropriately still, peaceful track —  Stille natt, or Silent Night.

The biggest issue with Julero is that the differences between songs are very subtle, so subtle that the tracks may end up blending together into one giant 45-minute Norwegian carol. A well-produced and beautifully sung 45-minute carol, but still something so homogenous that tracks become indistinguishable from one another. If a listener isn’t paying close attention, Julero threatens to turn into background music — something that plays during a Christmas photo slideshow or at a particularly hip greeting card store.

In the end, whether Julero ends up in your Christmas rotation this season depends on your taste and preference. The album is good, but may not be for everyone. If you like pure, understated a cappella, then Pust’s Julero will be a nice addition to your holiday collection.

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Ordering Information

CDs are available from the record company Kirkelig Kulturverksted or directly from the group by emailing post@pust.org.

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