Mariam Wallentin voice
Erika Angell voice
Fredrik Ljungkvist clarinet, bass clarinet, tenor saxophone
Anders Jormin double-bass
Jon Fält drums
Recorded January 2011 at Studio Epidemin, Göteborg
Engineer: Johannes Lundberg
Assistant engineer: Petter Eriksson
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
As a regular alongside greats Charles Lloyd, Bobo Stenson, Jon Balke, and Tomasz Stanko, Anders Jormin has taken irreplaceable part in some of the strongest records of the last two decades. Yet the Swedish bassist is also a fine composer, and in this vein has honed a sound-world uniquely his own. Ad Lucem is his third such project for producer Manfred Eicher, who has given him all the space his elements require to burgeon.
If water is ECM’s reigning elemental obsession, then light is a close second, and the title of Ad Lucem indeed activates the mind as if it were a prism. The setting places Jormin in unusually arrayed company. At its heart is the trio consisting of multi-reedist Fredrik Ljungkvist, drummer Jon Fälit, and Jormin himself. From this nexus spring the voices of Mariam Wallentin and Erika Angell, singing lyrics by the group’s leader. In Latin, no less. Regarding his preference for this “dead” language, Jormin appeals to its “sense of eternity and mystery”—qualities that lend themselves to the even more ancient language of improvisation. Wallentin and Angell, both experimenters of vibrant import, unravel the compact economy of his words, doing so sometimes without them, as in the diptych of “Clamor” and “Vigor.” Spinning the hearth of this music into a yarn of embers, they pass through the stained glass window of Ljungkvist’s tenor. Their every gesture becomes a color, joined by the solder of Jormin’s bass. The sentiments of “Hic et nunc” express it best: Here and now / Felt deep in my heart / Forever – twin souls touching each other. Over a meditative arco line and drums of distant plains (the patter of giants before a war?), they bring peace and stillness to the air, as also to “Inter semper et numquam.” In this scene of breathless time and bleeding stones from Danish writer Pia Tafdrup, they blend like the strings of a bass whose vibrations now stretch to the constitution of vocal flesh. While the journey is generally arid and ruminative (“Quibus” one of its many desert skies), Fält’s osteopathic interlude, “Lignum,” brings us into the deeper wounds of “Matutinum” and the bright English lyrics—the album’s only—of “Vox animæ.” Other highlights (no pun intended) include the clarinet filigree of “Vesper est,” among the more memorable melodies of the set, and the stunning tenorism of “Lux,” almost Charles Lloyd-like in its delicate brilliance and emblematic of the album’s quiet dazzle. “Cæruleus” is a wrenching sutra with some wild reed work that frees us into a dual kiss of farewell.
The virtue of its linguistic garments gives Ad Lucem the appearance of something eternal, even as it dances in the ephemeral wiggle room of jazz. It is the vagabond saint, the whisky priest on his horse, the elephant in the room who can sing…and do so compellingly.
(To hear samples of Ad Lucem, click here.)