The players find common musical language that shifts effortlessly across continents into a mysterious, almost telepathic communion…

ECM 2761 / 4875945

Anders Jormin: Double Bass; Lena Willemark: Vocals, Violin, Viola; Karin Nakagawa: 25-String Koto; Jon Fält Drums, Percussion

Recorded October 2021 at Studio Epidemin, Göteborg.

This album has arisen from several collaborations. Jormin and Willemark’s first release in 2004. Then their collaboration with Nakagawa in 2015. And Jormin’s work with Fält in the Bobo Stenson Trio. Each synergy between players from their respective collaborations continues a round on ongoing conversations.

On this album, the songs are built around poetry from Scandinavia, China, Japan, Renaissance Italy and Mexico. It is from Octavio Paz that the album takes its title.

Like the various musical styles that the players combine, there is little point in seeking a direct (English) translation of the title (which is literally the ‘past in clear’). Rather it requires an appreciation of the content of Paz’s long poem (a sort of autobiography, inspired in part by Wordsworth’s Prelude from which it takes its epigraph, of a poet exploring his own history and that of Mexico) in order to see why ‘a draft of shadows’ is an apt, contemporary translation of the title.

Perhaps ironically, given the length of the poem which has influenced it, the title track is one of the shortest on the album (running at around 3½ minutes). But there is, in this short track, the emotional heft of the poem’s opening words.

‘A draft of shadows’ begins ‘Heard by the soul, footsteps/ in the mind more than shadows, / shadows of thought more than footsteps / through the path of echoes / that memory invents and erases:’ This notion of footsteps that are not real but echoes of footsteps that memory erases as soon as they are heard, captures some of the surreal ambiguity of the interplay of melodies on these tunes.

This is not to say that the music has anything that unsettles or disturbs but that there is often a juxtaposition of themes, introduced by each player within the traditions of their musics and instruments, that seem to drift from one setting to another before they fully resolve.

Through the title tune, Jormin’s bass line runs wistfully through a welter of plucked strings and vocal yelps that conjure a South American mood without recourse to any of the rhythms one immediately associates with the continent.

In the press release, Jormin says, “When each musician´s unique musical dialect, in curiosity and with open listening ears, blends and communicates, something stronger than our four individual voices may awake. Something happens that in advance is not decided or controlled.”

In the best of improvised playing what is left on record is the whisp of the ideas that float from each player before wrapping around the next idea. For this to work, there needs to be a democracy in which no voice dominates but where each voice follows the same logic of the unfolding conversation.

Sometimes this logic appears to come from the words Willemark sings or from the emotions that she conveys in her melody or phrasing, sometimes it is from an emotional response in one or other of the players to the singing.

The players find common musical language that shifts effortlessly across continents into a mysterious, almost telepathic communion on which the listener is invited to eavesdrop.

Reviewed by Chris Baber