Cumberland Arms, Newcastle

5 February 2016

I don't often write a review of a new band, because it's difficult to talk about music you don't know, and as this was the launch of their first album I had heard literally nothing beyond a single streamed track before the gig. So this won't be one of my typical reviews, it will just be a brief "you really ought to listen to this band" sort of thing.

Because you really ought to listen to this band.

Boreas is a half-Scottish, half-Norwegian quartet playing harp, fiddle, accordion (a button accordion with a quite startling bass sound) and hardanger fiddle (eight strings, though I'm baffled as to how that works, but I felt it had a richer lower register than a regular fiddle) and with a repertoire of traditional and self-written music.

They played two sets of around 50 minutes each, so a lot more than appears on the album, and included a number of solo spots as well as band numbers. Individually and together they were musically flawless, and the balance between the instruments was beautiful and thoughtful, ranging from sparse accompaniments of the lead instrument of the moment to full-band arrangements. There were a handful of songs, but most of the music is instrumental.

Musically, the stand-out tracks were Aurora (I think? It's not actually on the album), full of beautiful soaring melodies, the atmospheric and rhythmic Facing the Bear (called Bjørnen on the album), and the stunning encore of Happy Set, with Gallic singing a weird instrumental end section.

Really highly recommended if you fancy a bit of virtuosic modern folk music, and if you don't think you fancy that then go and see them anyway and you'll probably change your mind.