Espvall, Helena/Masaki Batoh - Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh
"Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh are known to open-eared music listeners for their collaborations with other artists -- artists with names such as Ghost, Espers, Damon & Naomi, Fursaxa, Tom Rapp, Lukas Ligeti, Bert Jansch, among many others. By collaborating with each other, they've made one of the most beautiful recordings either one of them has yet participated in. They first met at a festival in the United States in 2006. Batoh presented Helena with a handmade bamboo instrument; short on spare celli, she gave him a copy of her solo CD. Afterwards, they stayed in touch. At some point Helena suggested an improvised musical collaboration. Batoh wrote back and said: 'Actually I'm too busy now to think about music... if my idols Moondog, Henry Cowell or Toru Takemitsu wanted me, I'll refuse their orders.' Several weeks later, he had a change of heart. He contacted Helena and said that he felt they should record not improvisations only, but songs as well. Helena made a demo of some Scandinavian folk songs that she remembered in her spirit from growing up in northern Sweden, thinking that maybe they'd record one. The recording session was held in Tokyo over four days in December 2007. For instruments fans, this session might be a treasure. So many strings were used: 6- and 12-string guitar, banjo, cello, hurdy-gurdy, harp, contra bass, chappa Tibetan bells, Kin (Buddist metallic bowl), timpani, bass marimba, vibraphone, thunder sheet & on & on. Six of the Swedish traditional tunes were reconstructed, along with Batoh's arrangement of 'Death Letter,' a classic Son House delta blues song. Additionally, a European medieval tune was addressed in its own arrangement and expression. 'Zeranium,' a dreamy folk tune that Batoh wrote for Damon & Naomi (they didn't use it), was re-arranged for this session as well. The improvisations were done on the last recording day, with no overdubs. 'Completely Free' was the essential concept. For one of them, they were joined by Batoh's fellow Ghosts Takuyuki Moriya (contra bass), Kazuo Ogino (piano,Celtic harp) and the santur player Mayumi Nagayoshi. The same morning, Helena had received notice that her grandmother suddenly had died, and that a dear friend had chosen to end his life. Two death letters in one day? There is great emotion reflected in the improvisations. And great depth and beauty throughout the whole Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh album."