Elina Duni/Rob Luft: Lost Ships (ECM 2689)

Elina Duni
Rob Luft
Lost Ships

Elina Duni voice
Rob Luft guitar
Fred Thomas piano, drums
Matthieu Michel flugelhorn
Recorded February 2020
Studios La Buissonne, Pernes-les-Fontaines
Engineer: Gérard de Haro
Mastering: Nicolas Baillard
Cover photo: Jean-Paul Dumas-Grillet
Album produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: November 13, 2020

You’ll have to flee,
But you’ll carry
This relentless sea,
Echoing in you, for always.

With this lyric, Elina Duni and Rob Luft share the secret of their collaborative masterpiece, Lost Ships. Between themes of migration and ecological failure, interspersed with memories of times and places, the Albanian-Swiss singer and British guitarist turn the spirit of contradiction inside out over and over until the differences blur beyond recognition. The track yielding this poetic observation, an ode to the wind entitled “Brighton,” is a veritable curtain of sound billowing in breath. Before that, however, the Italian lullaby “Bella Ci Dormi” (Beauty, You Sleep) elicits the album’s first declaration. Whereas we might normally think of such singing as marking the closing of a day, this feels more like the opening of one. The pianism of British multi-instrumentalist Fred Thomas and lilting guitar exude the same grammar. Other traditional gems, including the Albanian “Kur Më Del Në Derë” (When You Appear At Your Doorstep) and the American “The Wayfaring Stranger,” remind us that nothing has truly changed from when they were first unearthed.

“Flying Kites” is one of the many journeys herein penned by Duni and Luft and stands out for its instrumental unraveling, especially in the playing of Swiss flugelhornist Matthieu Michel, who completes the ensemble. Further originals include “Numb,” a timely plea for forgiveness, and the title song, a shapely construction that travels in curves even as it speaks straight to the heart. Another is “Empty Street,” a duet that turns ghosts into signposts for those living in the wake of their demise…

No matter what Duni touches, she turns into something far more precious than gold: time incarnate. A marvelous example is her rendition of Frank Sinatra’s “I’m A Fool To Want You.” As a lantern hanging from the outstretched hand of a dark past, it seeks redemption in an era that has forgotten its meaning. At Duni’s lips, the words remind us of just how sharp the edges of hope can be. And in making Charles Aznavour’s “Hier Encore” her own, to the sole accompaniment of an acoustic guitar, she helps us understand that nature stands in the way of love when our love of self stands in the way of nature.

Lost Ships carves a special line in ECM’s broad waters, and to its fleet I would add Amina Alaoui’s Arco Iris, Arianna Savall/Petter Udland Johansen’s Hirundo Maris, and Norma Winstone’s Somewhere Called Home for worthy company. As such comparisons should imply, it is more than a recording; it is a voyage, contrary to its title, of being found.

Jon Balke/Siwan: Hafla (ECM 2726)

Jon Balke

Mona Boutchebak vocals, kwitra
Derya Turkan kemençe
Bjarte Eike Baroque violin, leader
Helge Norbakken percussion
Pedram Khavar Zamini tombak
Per Buhre vocals, viola
Jon Balke keyboards, electronics, tombak
Recorded May/June 2021
The Village Recording, Copenhagen
Engineer: Thomas Vang
Recording producer: Jon Balke
Mastering: Christoph Stickel
Cover photo: Sarah Murtaja
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 22, 2022

Hafla is the third go-around for keyboardist-composer Jan Balke and his group, Siwan. Taking inspiration from the cultural melting pot that was al-Andalus yet retying those threads into a friendship bracelet of striking originality, Balke and company retain the character of each idiom while achieving an overall design. Through the talents of Algerian singer Mona Boutchebak, Turkish kamancheh virtuoso Derya Turkan, Iranian tombak master Pedram Khavar Zamini, Norwegian percussionist Helge Norbakken, and violinist Bjarte Eike and his Barokksolistine, Balke summons the utmost familiarity from places and times that far outweigh our experiences as citizens of the 21st century. And while coronavirus restrictions prevented the ensemble from recording in the studio all at once, one would never guess the cutting and pasting required to bring the album to its present form in light of its hermetic coherence.

Balke’s compositions constitute the entire program, save for Boutchebak’s “Mirada Furtiva,” recalling a love so strong that it can never overstep the boundaries of modesty that keep it from consuming itself. Setting the poetry of Ibn Zaydun (1003-1071), the singer accompanies herself on the kwitra (Algerian lute), joined by low stirrings of wires and bows. Zaydun’s lover and the Ummayad princess of Córdoba, Wallada bint al-Mustakfi (1010-1091), is the verbal force behind the program’s opener, “Tarraquab” (Visit). Its lilting character immediately transports us into a cinematic world of strings and percussion. Boutchebak evokes flowing transpositions of bodies into spirits and back again, scenting the evening air with yearnings for touch.

Other poets who find themselves redrawn beneath the Siwan overlay include Ibn Sara As-Santarini (Santarém, 1043-1123), Ibn Sa’id al-Maghribi (Alcalá la Real, 1213-1286), Abu Bakr al-Turtushi (Tortosa, 1059-1126 or 1127), and Ibn Hazm (Córdoba, 994-1064), all of whom express an intimate relationship with that most sensuous interim before the dawn. Whether in the bright harmonies of “La Estrella Fugaz” (The Shooting Star) or the gentle strength of “Diálogo en la Noche” (Dialogue in the Night), we encounter selves divided by pining and expectation. And in “Enamorado de Júpiter” (In Love with Jupiter), the gloom of unrequited affections unfurls a canvas for the brush of a pained lyric:

Knowing well that I am the full moon in the clear sky,
You fell in love with Jupiter, the darkest planet.

Braiding the invisible forces of “Arrihu Aqwadu Ma Yakunu Li-Annaha” and the seeking qualities of “Uquállibu” (Absence), Boutchebak attaches threads of continuity between burning hearts that have only the moon as their messenger. Even the two instrumental interludes, “Línea Oscura” and “Saeta,” seem to communicate in verse, so that when images as powerful as those expressed throughout “Wadadtu” (Is There No Way), in which the desire to become one with another achieves fiery tension, rise to the surface, it is all we can do to hold on to the rhythms for assurance of reaching the shore. As violist Per Buhre sings this song in English against a wash of strings and kamancheh to bid us farewell, the linguistic change of clothing starches the ears, making us realize just how far our tongues have yet to travel.

Dino Saluzzi: Albores (ECM 2638)

Dino Saluzzi

Dino Saluzzi bandoneón
Recorded February-October 2019
Saluzzi Music Studios, Buenos Aires
Recording engineer: Néstor Diaz
Cover photo: Lisa Franz
Mastering: Christoph Stickel
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: November 6, 2020

Whereas many of us who once painted with fingers as a child moved on to brushes, Dino Saluzzi seems to have ignored that transition. On Albores, an album born of reckoning, Saluzzi renders what Luján Baudino in his liner note calls an “inner landscape.”

“Adiós Maestro Kancheli” opens on a somber note by paying respects to the late Georgian composer, who passed away in 2019. And yet, what we are given is more than a tribute or homage; rather, it is an identity without personhood, a force that animates the spirit of bygone days. Such redemptions of memory are as integral to Saluzzi’s language as sunlight and rain are to crops. The levels of introspection so organically achieved on “Ausencias” and “Íntimo” are what only decades of artistic experience could elicit. Such power of restraint, he reminds us, is foreign to our younger selves. It is the method of a heart that knows only the scrape of life’s cuneiform.

One need only bathe in the waters of “Don Caye” (an ode to his father’s music) to know that if the bandoneón were a film camera, Saluzzi would be one of its greatest living auteurs. “Écuyère” reorients the lens on a larger scale. Its prosaic qualities illuminate characters whose motives, while ancient, feel as familiar as our skins. The same holds for “Ficción,” a more jagged mountain carved by patience. Like “La Cruz del Sur (2da cadencia),” it rises among the very Andes in which it was born.

Hope is most apparent in “Según me cuenta la vida – Milonga,” a language seeking a mouth through which to be spoken. What dances in one moment turns during the next into a forlorn gaze toward a horizon that could have been. And yet, the trajectory that has brought him here feels inevitable. As in the closing “Ofrenda – Tocata,” it has always been inside, waiting to be sung.

Despite its generally slow pacing, there is plenty of verve to discover throughout Albores. Saluzzi’s energy floats just out of grasp so that we are always seeking its next steps. It is also a meditation on the lung capacity of the bandoneón itself. It breathes for those who no longer breathe. It breathes for those who have yet to breathe. It breathes for all who continue to breathe. Hints of light between its buttons are enough to remind us that even as the sun sets where we stand, elsewhere, it is dawn.

Sinikka Langeland: Wolf Rune (ECM 2674)

Sinikka Langeland
Wolf Rune

Sinikka Langeland kantele, vocal
Recorded December 2019 at Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Recording supervision: Sean Lewis
Engineer: Martin Abrahamsen
Cover photo: Christian Houge
Executive producer: Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 9, 2021

My eye and God’s eye
is one eye,
and one sight,
and one knowledge,
and one love.

–Meister Eckhart

After a loosely bound series of five tablets, the most recent being 2015’s The Magical Forest, Sinikka Langeland chisels an authorial portrait of the highest order with her first solo album. With so many multicolored scenes in collaborative form behind her, the Norwegian singer and kantele storyteller offers this monochromatic wonder as an ode to becoming and dissolution.

For the opening “Moose Rune,” she attunes the acoustic signatures of Rainbow Studio through her 15-string kantele, playing it with a bow to bring every molecule into sacred order. So begins an extended prayer of which the 39-string sister instrument breathes like an elder of time perched on a stony crag to oversee the histories Langeland has been blessed to carry. Playing the traditional “Polsdance from Finnskogen,” she expands the sonority at hand with liquidity to spare. Such instrumentals carry themselves with a fleshly quality, leaving footprints in every patch of earth they traverse.

Two “Kantele Prayers” give solace. Played on a 5-string instrument, they are like a child cultivating a mature soul, waiting for the day when, as an adult, she can do the opposite. Thus do the strings resonate in “Winter Rune” with all the force of a life lived circularly—tender yet aware of the rigid climbs one must complete to survey paths of learning. Past traumas blush on the horizon, but the voice gives assurance that not a single drop of their storms will make itself known upon the skin of the here and now. And when Langeland’s bow opens its heart for the second time, she creates a portal of escape for anyone who wishes to follow.

While her heart pumps with the blood of tradition, as in the modest folk tune “The Girl In The Headlands” and the hymnal “I See Your Light,” it also chambers a deeply generative spirit. From the latter is birthed a handful of original melodies. Langeland composes with an ancient sensibility and gives a wealth of experience to every turn of phrase. In “Row My Ocean,” her setting of a text by poet and playwright Jon Fosse, she evokes the movement of oars more emotional than physical, extending every string as a current in its own right, while “The Eye Of The Blue Whale” curls its fingers around her own verses, describing a disembodied whale’s eye as a metaphor for songs that, once sung, belong only to themselves. Such observations take wing in “When I Was The Forest.” Every gesture encoded in these words after 13th-century philosopher Meister Eckhart contains sparkle and shadow in equal measure. At tip of finger and rim of lip, Langeland enacts wandering, supplication, and regard for the natural world in ways that blur the lines between flesh and fern.

The starlit melody of “Don’t Come To Me With The Entire Truth” practices what it espouses: a humbling exaltation of the drop before the ocean, content in knowing just enough to make every breath count. All that’s left to regard is the title track, a rendering of an old rune song in which the Trinity is loosed like a pack of light to roam the darkness of this world, devouring every demon in sight. The stepwise motions of the kantele here are beyond virtuosic: they are fully integrated into their environment.

This is the soul of the forest made clean, a hearth in which to hibernate until the clouds pass over us in search of dawn.

Maria Farantouri/Cihan Türkoğlu: Beyond The Borders (ECM 2585)

2585 X

Maria Farantouri
Cihan Türkoğlu
Beyond The Borders

Maria Farantouri voice
Cihan Türkoğlu
saz, kopuz, voice
Anja Lechner 
Meri Vardanyan kanon
Christos Barbas
İzzet Kızıl percussion
Recorded June 2017, Sierra Studios, Athens
Engineer: Giorgos Karyotis
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: June 21, 2019

“Everything flows.
Out of one thing there comes unity,
and out of unity one thing.”

The project documented on Beyond The Borders was born when Greek singer Maria Farantouri first heard Cihan Türkoğlu, a saz virtuoso of Anatolian extraction who had been living in Athens for ten years. After proposing the idea to ECM, producer Manfred Eicher helped shape the program into its present form, debuting it as part of the 2017 Athens Festival. For this live performance, they are joined by Anja Lechner on cello, Meri Vardanyan on kanon, Christos Barbas on ney, and İzzet Kızıl on percussion. Their collective sound is distinctly individual, like a soul of many cities and eras compressed into the flesh of a single body.

Most of the songs are traditional treasures from the lands of Turkey, Armenia, Lebanon, and Greece. Each tells a story preserved by centuries of reiteration, and achieves relevance as a cool drink of water in today’s political firestorm. The scintillating arrangement of “Drama köprüsü” (The Bridge of Drama) finds both Türkoğlu and Farantouri singing the life of Hassan, a legendary Robin Hood-like figure who went rogue after slaying his superior, stealing from the rich and giving to the poor while shadowing the village just to glimpse the woman to whom he was once betrothed. The Sephardic ballad “Yo era ninya” (I Was a Girl) tells of a highborn maiden ruined by a deceitful man. A mournful quality made resolutely genuine by Farantouri’s delivery, as if sung through a cloud, makes this a standout among standouts. Lechner’s cello is remarkable, a red thread drawn through shadows of time.

From Armenia we receive “Kele kele” (Strolling), an anonymous song preserved by Komitas Vardapet around the turn of the 20th century. In it, a lovelorn girl sings: “I am dying for your footsteps, my precious.” An extended intro from Vardanyan paints a wide terrain on which to seek the traces of her loved one. Not all is so gloomy, however, as the Macedonian wedding song “Triantafylia” (Upon the Rosebush) works from a quiet introduction to an energy powerful enough to shine unscathed through a pessimistic future. “Wa Habibi” (My Beloved), a Christian hymn from Syria and Lebanon, unravels with a lifetime’s worth of experience in every throaty word.

The program is rounded out by songs written specially for Farantouri with music by Türkoğlu and words by Agathi Dimitrouka. “Dyo kosmoi mia angalia” (Embraced Worlds) takes Eros as its theme and evokes loving attributes via kanon, in which are felt reflections of sunlight upon a body of water whose surface is a portal between realms. “Ta panda rei” is a setting of Heraclitus, whose blurring of parts and wholes, of lives and life itself, yields percussive details from Kızıl and breaths from the ney of Barbas. Between “Lahtara gia zoi” (Yearning for Life), an empathic song for the uprooted, and “Anoihtos kaimos” (A Secret Yearning), a surreally uplifting dream, we feel the connective tissue of death and life as if it were the very substance of our hearts. With every beat, we get closer to this music, even as it follows its own path through the tragedies of our world.

Marc Sinan/Oğuz Büyükberber: White (ECM 2558)

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Marc Sinan
Oğuz Büyükberber

Marc Sinan guitar, electronics
Oğuz Büyükberber clarinet, bass clarinet, electronics
Recorded October 2016, Rainbow Studio, Oslo
Engineer: Jan Erik Kongshaug
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: May 18, 2018

No matter where I am yet I shall not forget our mournful songs,
Shall not forget our steel-lettered books which now have become prayers,
No matter how sharply they pierce my heart our wounds so soaked with blood,
Even then I love my orphaned and my bloodied, dear Armenia.
–Yeghishe Charents

On White, German-Turkish-Armenian guitarist Marc Sinan and Turkish clarinetist Oğuz Büyükberber join more than forces, blending history and all-but-forgotten biographies into a mosaic of reckoning. After working together in the much larger ensemble of Hasretim: Journey to Anatolia, they now present their first recording as a duo, and the result of their collaboration is one of the most ghostly albums to be released on ECM in recent years.

The program consists largely of a suite by Sinan entitled upon nothingness. Combining field recordings from 1916 of Armenian prisoners of war in German detention camps, it is divided into colored subsections of yellow, blue, green, white, and red. The field recordings add a sense of mystery, trickling from cracks in the wall around this unthinkable past while also seeming to scale said wall from a peaceable future. Caged folksongs—each a cry for freedom in places where such a concept feels as distant as the sky—act as catalysts for our two performers, who in their present clarity touch the looking glass of retrospection as if it were a talisman close to breaking. Electronics flood the air, foregrounding inner turmoil.

Sinan’s guitar is multivalent, at one moment tracing a barbed yet invisible border of hatred around the afflicted while the next igniting that ring as a halo of grace. Tents and squalid conditions peak from the images of a lost era like glaciers whose tips only hint at the immense traumas fanning out beneath the surface of a collective amnesia. As lost souls whose only hope is to be grasped like wisps of creative thought, their echoes give rise to electronic embraces wider than any arms of flesh could accommodate. In the album’s eponymous “white” section—a guitar piece written by Büyükberber and transformed by Sinan—we encounter shooting stars, forced to observe from a darkness without ornament.

Interspersed throughout is Büyükberber’s five-part there. Painting a more straightforward, though no less inspired narrative, it strikes a free jazz kaleidoscope, opening windows into windows into windows. Sheltered by their fragmentary architecture, symbiosis becomes the norm, and we as individual agents the exceptions taking in their stories as if they were our own.

Areni Agbabian: Bloom (ECM 2549)

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Areni Agbabian

Areni Agbabian voice, piano
Nicolas Stocker percussion
Recorded October 2016, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Stefano Amerio
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: April 26, 2019

Patience is more important now…

Bloom marks the ECM debut of a God-given talent. Areni Agbabian, an Armenian American from Los Angeles, is far more than any biographical sketch might seek to define her, if only because her art points to at least two futures for every past in which it is tangled. As a singer, she is equal parts Meredith Monk and Kate Bush, and in that respect embodies the power of wordless improvisation to tell as much of a story as a crafted lyric. As a pianist, she treats keys as seeds and by her touch inspires them to sprout feathers in place of leaves. As a songwriter, she gathers all of these metaphors in a sacred circle, and by that act offers them as prayers to the forces flowing through her. For this album, she is joined by percussionist Nicolas Stocker, whose textural sensibilities open their arms to whatever impulses arise in the studio.

The album’s cycle of life begins in the fullness of adulthood with the bipartite “Patience.” Its combination of muted piano and brushed snare meshes around Agbabian’s sung mantras, which just as soon pivot into unexpected territories with messages written in blood, tenderness, and possibility. She returns occasionally to auras of meaning, but connects them spontaneously to innermost chambers. “A time to be with you as a time to pray,” she intones, and in that call to psychological arms gives us all the shielding we need to fend for ourselves in a world run emotionally dry. As the first drop in a sprinkling of lyric-based pieces—which also includes the astonishingly cinematic “The Water Bride,” a folk tale rendered in spoken word, and “Mother,” an anthem for all humankind—it is an ocean in the making.

More often, Agbabian takes shelter in absence of words. Drawing a thread of continuity through such diverse selections as the traditional Armenian hymn “Anganim Arachi Ko,” the folk melody “Garun a,” and the original “Seeing More,” she traces that string to a mirror, in whose surface it seems to continue on forever into darkness. In each of these songs she takes a pondering look into the truth of the human condition, naked and vulnerable to pain, and by her very acknowledgment opens herself to intimacies of creation. The latter are best expressed in the fully improvised “The River,” in which she and Stocker add grooves of their own to the other’s sonic fingerprints and which yields the percussionist’s solo vision of “Colored,” which also finds a partner in his haunting “Light Effect.”

Agababian’s pianism shines brightest in “Petal One” and “Petal Two,” both of which presage the natural imagery of “Full Bloom,” and in two further pieces, “Rain Drops” and “Whiteness,” born of suggestions made by producer Manfred Eicher in the studio. But despite the album’s title, we know that most of what we hear is only some of what we get. Like the pinecone held before her face in the cover photograph, Agbabian reveals only the corner of a smile and leaves us free to imagine its curve into melodies yet to be gifted.

Marco Ambrosini/Ensemble Supersonus: Resonances (ECM 2497)

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Marco Ambrosini
Ensemble Supersonus

Marco Ambrosini nyckelharpa
Anna-Liisa Eller kannel
Anna-Maria Hefele overtone singing, harp
Wolf Janscha Jew’s harp
Eva-Maria Rusche harpsichord, square piano
Recorded November 2015, Auditorio Stelio Molo RSI, Lugano
Engineer: Lara Persia
Album produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: June 21, 2019

Nyckelharpa virtuoso Marco Ambrosini returns to ECM with a project as successful as it is ambitious. In Ensemble Supersonus, he has forged a far-reaching prism through which to shine the light of his neglected forte, and by its rainbow effects a wealth of reimagined material. For Resonances, he is joined by Anna-Liisa Eller on kannel, overtone singer Anna-Maria Hefele, Wolf Janscha on Jew’s harp, and harpsichordist Eva-Maria Rusche.

The album opens with Ambrosini’s unaccompanied “Fuga Xylocopae.” As the keystone to the geometry that follows, it renders an entire world of possibilities, and from that panoply frames eleven further scenes, each more painterly than the last. In its wake, Heinrich Iganz Franz Biber’s “Rosary” Sonata No. 1 gets a chemical peel, touched by Hefele’s blinding inner-space and Rusche’s sparkling plectra. Through it all, Ambrosini’s abilities delight, touching off minutiae that one would never have guessed to be lurking in Biber’s psyche. Music by Johann Jakob Froberger (an e-minor Toccata played on square piano) and Girolamo Frescobaldi (a Prelude and Toccata with added nyckelharpa) flesh out the Biberian zeitgeist.

Although released in 2019, this album was recorded in 2015, one year after the ensemble’s present lineup cohered in a mutual search for ancient and modern music with such Baroque modes as their fulcrum. From the Medieval mysticism of Hildegard von Bingen’s O Antiqui Sancti, made manifest by Hefele’s liminal voicing, to the starkly visual writing within the group, nothing in the program is out of place. In the latter vein, Janscha contributes three compositions: Ananda Rasa, Fjordene, and Ritus. The first and last are statues come to life, actors moving across a silver screen, while the second is a Jew’s harp solo of deepening soul. Rusche adds her own: the kinetic and vivacious Erimal Nopu, a buoyant polyphony of spirits that seems inspired as much by 17th-century harmonies as by Manuel de Falla. As does Hefele, whose 2 Four 8 is a forest of overtones through which a full moon shines.

The traditional Swedish “Polska” widens the ensemble’s meeting ground like antique machinery oiled to renewal. Ambrosini sighs and sings, treating laments as messages in a bottle cracked open only in dreams. Another standout in this fantastical regard is “Hicaz Hümâyan Saz Semâisi” by Veli Dede, whose music has intersected with ECM before via Anouar Brahem’s Conte de l’incroyable amour. Its modal beauties are familiar and forever searching, thus proving that, for all its backward glances, Ensemble Supersonus is looking resolutely forward, as I hope we can to a follow-up in the future.

Trio Mediaeval & Arve Henriksen: Rímur (ECM 2520)


Trio Mediaeval & Arve Henriksen

Anna Maria Friman voice, Hardanger fiddle
Linn Andrea Fuglseth voice, shruti box
Berit Opheim voice
Arve Henriksen trumpet
Recorded February 2016, Himmelfahrtskirche, München
Engineer: Peter Laenger
Produced by Manfred Eicher
Release date: March 3, 2017

If fate would send me around the world
far away from you,
I would yet, with tears, send you a sigh
that belongs to you.

The title of Rímur, Trio Mediaeval’s seventh album for ECM, takes its name from a longstanding tradition of Icelandic rhyming verses, passed down orally from generation to generation until reaching their present incarnations in a program that meshes three distinct voices with a fourth: that of trumpeter Arve Henriksen. In this artful sequence of chants, hymns, and folk songs drawn from Scandinavian sources, the quartet reimagines music as it might have swept across northern landscapes during bygone ages whose histories are renewed in these melodic survivors.

Because improvisation has always been a vital component of Nordic folk tunes, the leaps of intuition required of their interpretation are in-built into the music. And while saxophonist Jan Garbarek’s collaboration with the Hilliard Ensemble will draw obvious comparison—and, to be sure, fans of that project will want to own this one as well—it’s very much its own world, tracing a continental fringe that runs crosswise to that ECM classic.

The Icelandic material yields the most ghostly effects—not only because of a certain transparency, but more importantly because of Henriksen’s ability to see in it what few others might. Whether rising like the stream of a quiet fountain in “O Jesu dulcissime,” a highpoint of the disc for its vocal blending and Hardanger fiddle accents, or unraveling inner spirit in “Morgunstjarna,” a hymn to God’s only begotten Son in confirmation of grace, Henriksen reveals unforced harmonies, by turns balladic and martial. Other highlights include the original “Krummi,” the traditional Swedish shanty “Du är den första,” and the anonymous chant “Alma Redemptoris Mater.” In each of these, he extends the wingspan of expectation while yet cooling us in a familiar shade. In his absence, Friman, Fuglseth, and Opheim are spotlighted by a handful of vocal pieces, including some especially evocative material from Norway. Of these, the wedding tune “Brureslått” features some of the most stillness-inducing singing the trio has ever recorded.

At the heart of this recording are substantial hymns to Saints Birgitta (Sweden), Magnus (Orkney), and Sunniva (Norway). The first, by 14th-century Swedish composer Nils Hermansson, epitomizes the dynamics that make Trio Mediaeval such a unique ensemble. The way in which they spin from a single voice a sonority beyond triplicate measure is exquisite, even as Henriksen adds a voice of his own, at first in lockstep then in untethered flight. In the other hymns, they sail equally selfless waters. Would that we were able to turn their metaphorical vessel into a reality, docked far beyond the world’s storehouse of hatred by a braid of divine inspiration.