Mats Edén: Milvus (ECM 1660)


Mats Edén

Mats Edén drone-fiddle, violin, viola
Jonas Simonson flute, alto flute
Cikada String Quartet
Recorded September 1997 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher

After making vital contributions to the ECM collaborations of Lena Willemark and Ale Möller, Swedish multi-instrumentalist and composer Mats Edén brings his folk revival sensibilities to this leader date from 1999. He joins longtime musical partner Jonas Simonson in paying homage to many great fiddlers, including Ärtbergs Kalle Karlström and Lejsme Per Larsson, and old-time masters Torleiv Björgum and Anders Rosén. The latter revived the use resonating strings, which Edén took on himself in developing a custom instrument called the bordunfiol, or drone-fiddle, featured prominently in Milvus.


Of that drone we get plenty in “Haväng,” an original tune dedicated to Indian violinist K. Shivakumar. Simonson’s flute is the photographic image that develops in Edén’s solution. This frothy combination of sublime harmonies and cohesive adaptation permeates especially the vibrant polskas that speckle the program. The contrast between airy riffs and tethered harmonics, between flowing lines and jagged accompaniment, between fragrant soil and dry winds makes for an altogether inviting atmosphere.

Having grown up in Värmland, which borders Norway, Edén takes inspiration from the region in “Norafjälls,” which he plays to earthen perfection. Likewise the dirge-like lows of “Vardag.” He also offers two improvised solo “Variations,” which bring with them a darker cast. Their strained quality and wrenching, emotional grit reveals a highly ingrained mind at work.

Simonson brings spiritual centeredness against distant fiddle accompaniment in “Den lyckliga (Beate Virgine),” a devout, reverberant jewel in the album’s rusted crown, and brings reflection and depth to his solo “Spillet,” a brief but profound segue.

As if this weren’t enough, the Cikada String Quartet concludes with Edén’s three-part String Quartet No. 1, of which the first movement feels like an unpacking of all the traditions that came before. As such, it is a distillation, a crystal fragmented and made whole again (the “jigginess” here is far more subtle, internal). The second movement is a quiet agitation of rubber-banded ideas, a spiral into the final Lento, engaged by folk themes amid careful attention to surroundings.

The album’s title refers to the kite bird. Not surprisingly, the music created in its name embodies the cut of those wings, angular and sure against the sky. Such contrasts would seem to be of vital importance to Edén, a musician who understands that the spaces in between the strings are just as important as the strings themselves.

Black Kite
(Photo by Laurent Breillat)

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