The Alvaret Ensemble - ea
Picture the scene: a howling cold winter's day, a curious spell of shady figures, laden with equipment, descending a remote outpost, an old church, somewhere in the Netherlands. Their purpose is a musical collaboration. In dimly-lit cloisters, old blood welcomes new and a new ritual begins. Over three dark days they work their instruments, strings of dismay and edgy piano supporting bleak incantations in a distinctive voice, telling tall tales. This is ea, the third album from musical collective The Alvaret Ensemble.
Without scores or prior discussion and many hours of musical improvisation, nine compositions emerged. And from the opening notes of In Meagere Nekke, a sombre mood is set... in stone. Greg Haines on piano, along with Olga Wojciechowska and Joana Guerra, on violin and cello respectively, had the potential to introduce light (i.e. hope) into proceedings, their collective minds instead responding to the prevailing universal disquiet. Perhaps it's the brooding poetry of Jan Kleefstra that casts a shadow, vast and long, over the entire performance, his whispering tones under your skin. The resulting bleak passages of spare percussion, long, drawn-out notes and minor-keys, sprinkled with gasping glimpses of positivity is a perfect metaphor for life today.
Sitting in the pews, watching the performance unfold, being entertained, like a stage version of the last King Midas Sound album, I imagine ea would be a satisfying, uplifting experience. Sticking it on the stereo, for whatever reason, isn't something I'd rush to do too often though.
- Rating: 6/10
- Listens: 13
- Highlight: In Leave Rein
- Label: Laaps Records
- Release Date: 20th January 2020