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coverpic flag Sweden / Japan / US - Pennsylvania - Full Moon 152 - 02/09/09

Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh
Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh
Drag City

This album came several moonths ago, yet I'd like to say something about it. Simply because it's a spellbinding record. Music for full moons, sot of. Even if it's holding garden songs and lullabies.

Swedish born (USA based) cellist, vocalist and guitarist Helena Espvall teams up with Japanese avant-noise guitarist Masaki Batoh for improvisation and time travelling (to the medieval times) into the 'pastures' of world music. Espvall (cellist of Espers, with Bert Jansch, with Vashti Bunyan, plus more) and Batoh (core member of experimental, psychedelic, avant-prog, acid-folk rock band Ghost) have met up and gone through a handful of trad. tunes from Espvall's native Sweden, as well as composing/improvising some stuff together. And the result is... rather curious. And glorious. There's a fragility to the songs, and for sure an ancient touch to it all. This is medieval pop music.

The 'Swedish' section starts with "Polska" (Polska After Pekkos Per) - an instrumental ('polska' is a folk dance), before the old and fragile folk song "Kristallen den fina" (The Beautiful Crystal) rolls out. Then comes one of the highlights: "Uti vår hage" (In Our Pasture Land) is amazing. Simply because the song, a folk song from the 1800s, itself is fantastic. The lullaby "Trollmors vaggvisa" (Mother troll's lullaby - in fact its original title is "Trollmors vaggsång") is presented by Espvall on banjo and vocals. Quite stripped, like it should be done, to suit the song. Other tracks hold more instrumentation and sound, but the improv parts never get too loud and overwhelming.

"Death Letter" is maybe the albums most conform pop-song, while the closing track, "Kyklopes", is turning more into abstract terrains. Throughout the album there are lot of good ideas and enchanting moments. "Neko Nemurenai" is a fine example, but the outstanding track is "Uti vår hage".

This is medieval mushroom music.

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