Fiddle And Mandolin Duo Hildaland Set To Release Serene Debut Album 'Sule Skerry'
By Stevie Connor.
Fiddle player Louise Bichan and mandolinist Ethan Setiawan have announced their new duo project Hildaland, with their debut album Sule Skerry set for release on Friday 3rd November 2023.
Scottish fiddler Louise and American mandolinist Ethan have been making music together for a number of years as part of four-piece outfit Corner House. Now, the two instrumentalists have chosen to explore a more stripped-back sound as a duo, naming their new project Hildaland.
On their debut album Sule Skerry, the pair rework and build upon traditional music, with a focus on Louise’s Scottish musical roots. The album is a collection of updated traditional tunes, some original compositions, and a few songs, which act as accents to an otherwise instrumental piece of work.
Louise Bichan said: “Ethan always has really interesting musical ideas, and takes things in directions I wouldn’t think to go. He writes brilliant tunes, which are often challenging and push me out of my comfort zone, which I appreciate. Musical communication is pretty effortless at this point, which wasn’t always the case!
“When we’re playing a melody in unison I love to get it to lock in and sit just right. Ethan will often create chords for a melody that I wrote. With this record and making production decisions we had to make a lot of calls on our own, without bandmates or producers, which was great.”
Ethan Setiawan added: “Like Corner House, this project is still a fusion of many styles, but as a duo we focus more on the Scottish influences and traditional Celtic music. A pretty big part of Hildaland is taking traditional material and greatly reworking it into something new.
“Louise has a beautiful sense of melody and harmony. She often comes up with ideas that seem perfect, and so totally not what I would have come up with. She plays with a lot of drive, and derives beautiful arcs of storytelling within a melody.”
Originally from the Orkney Islands, Louise met Ethan during their time at Berklee College of Music in Boston MA. Ethan grew up in Indiana, and has made a name for himself as a virtuosic mandolin player, winning The 2017 Rockygrass Mandolin Championship, and performing with the likes of Darrell Scott and Julian Lage. Louise is an award winning fiddle player, who has appeared on the BBC and at the Edinburgh Castle and Cambridge Folk festival to name just a few.
The pair both penned original tunes which appear on the collection. The first single from the album, Silver Dollar, is out now. Written by Louise, the track is bright and uplifting, with the duo performing completely in sync and with palpable joy, unfolding from a unison melody to rhythmic accompaniment and then harmony. The tune was penned for the occasion of Louise’s aunt and uncle’s silver wedding anniversary.
The second single, due for release on Tuesday 26th September, is entitled Trains/Fin's. Tied together by the theme of movement, the two sets - one composed by Ethan and one by Louise - feature the playing of esteemed pianist Neil Pearlman. Trains was written during a discussion with the great harpist Maeve Gilchrist about hornpipes, and Fin's Foley inspired by a mishap Louise’s brother had involving a wheel.
Ethan’s composition Vera and Weezy, written for a pair of dogs living in the apartment above the couple’s home, also features Neil Pearlman on piano, and sees Ethan’s usual bluegrass, old-time sound move in the direction of Scottish fusion.
Another stand out track on the album is a cover of Gillian Welch’s Everything Is Free Now, sung by special guest Sadie Gustafson-Zook, a childhood friend of Ethan and a gifted singer-songwriter. The track highlights Hildaland’s ability to use their instruments and vocals as support rather than taking centre stage, in a departure from the instrumental focus of the rest of the album.
The album was recorded and mixed at the couple's home studio, and was also self-produced. Sule Skerry will be available to stream and download on all major digital platforms from Friday 3rd November 2023.