If the political entity known as the European Union is inclined to throw up controversial proposals and legislation, there’s nothing controversial about the European union known as SYM. The trio, whose members live in London, Paris and Oslo, is quite simply a magnificent and truly symbiotic union of musical minds and talents. For a debut album, this has few rivals and its immediately apparent that a lot of thought has gone into both the compositions and the arrangements.

Making up the trio are Hardanger fiddler Anne Hytta, Eleonore Billy, who plays the nyckelharpa and Clare Salaman on both those instruments plus hurdy gurdy. While all three may look very different, the unifying factor is that each has sympathetic strings, creating an exquisite warm, rich and texture-laden sound.

All the music on the album is composed by members of the trio and although no sources of inspiration are given, none is needed. The music speaks for itself, conjuring up vivid images ranging from Nordic darkness through what at times is reminiscent of the courtly dance styles of centuries gone by, to joyous traditional French dance. The playing is exemplary throughout.

The only disappointment is that logistics will prevent us from hearing them live very often. But that makes buying the album all the more important.

Taplas (December 08 / January 09 )

Released on Taith Records, SYM’s debut album features the open strings and drones of Anne Hytta, Eléonore Billy and Clare Salaman, who first met in January 2007 with the intention of exploring the possibilities of their traditional instruments which all have sympathetic, resonating strings. Norwegian hardanger violins, Swedish nyckelharpas and the hurdy gurdy are brandished here to conjure up an eerie, natural environment which is both refreshing and magical. Andalusisk Morgen especially has an atmosphere of foreboding and honesty which hypnotises during its quieter passages, before gently breaking the spell and releasing the listener. Heady and unique.

Musician Magazine

Exciting music occurs when three women from three countries tune more than 30 strings and lift their instruments to play.

A symbiosis occurs when different organisms fuse together with each other, despite – and because of – their differences. The trio, SYM, consists of the Norwegian hardanger fiddler Anne Hytta, French Eléonore Billy playing Swedish nyckelharpa and English Clare Salaman playing the hurdy gurdy.

Their nationality and instruments are different, but there are also many similarities between the three. First and foremost they are united in a desire to go all the way in exploring their own musical tradition and from that place to find their own, new expression. Or as Anne Hytta states about the music she wants to make: “I had an idea of how music could sound that I had not heard before.”

Even though all of them compose music, it is “only when we start playing together that the music can move towards its final shape”. (Clare Salaman)

Although this is new music, it nevertheless bears a strong connection to traditional music. However, the fusion that is achieved makes it impossible to identify this as music from any one of the three countries and is proof of a common musical vein that runs through traditional music.

My favourite so far on this album is the track “Real Blue Moon”, where Salaman establishes a porous timbre from the hurdy gurdy under the other’s long melody lines before the dance starts.

Arne Guttormsen, VÂrt Land (Vaart Land)

The presence of sympathetic strings is a shared characteristic of the hurdy gurdy, nyckelharpa and hardingfele. There are already some duos with sympathetically strung instruments but, as far as I know, this is the only trio which has dared to explore this combination.

Anne Hytta (Norway) is a well known hardingfele player and Eléonore Billy (France) plays the nyckelharpa and bass nyckelharpa. Clare Salaman (England) is the hurdy gurdy player of the group, but she also plays hardingfele and nyckelharpa, making many different combinations of instruments possible.

The trio first met in January 2007 and after 3 days of playing together the musical basis for the group had been established. It is very original music with many drones, strongly influenced by traditional Scandinavian and Northern European music.
Sometimes the atmosphere can be close to that of medieval music.

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Trad Magazine, France