4

Stephan Micus: Inland Sea

Geno Thackara By

Sign in to view read count
Stephan Micus: Inland Sea
Like an actual inland sea, the Stephan Micus catalogue stands as a unique entity distinct from all its surroundings. Always too restless to rely on familiar sounds, he travels to find little-known instruments in far corners of the world and take time getting to know each one's voice. His 22nd ECM recording is centered mostly around the texture of the nyckelharpa—a Swedish fiddle with built-in sympathetic strings. In supporting roles here (as it were) are the genbri, a Moroccan stringed bass instrument, and a small range of zithers with a couple other exotic odds and ends.

Micus uses an unusually long bow to coax extended drones from the nyckelharpa, often stretching the metallic notes to weave slow contemplative lines that float in the air—a far cry from its usual role in fast-paced dance music. He also uses the instrument's traditionally European sound for trance-like drones that would be suited to the unhurried meditation of Indian music. His low vocalese in "Flor del Sur" is in keeping with the Asian tradition as well, while other tracks make use of steel guitar or Japanese bamboo flute. Micus doesn't deliberately cross those boundaries so much as ignore them—the goal is to forget the rules and simply let his ears suggest where each element belongs, irrespective of what its 'proper' role might normally be.

While the album's title can refer to possible hospitable climates and civilization, the sparse music nonetheless is much more suggestive of something vast and desolate. Some pieces consist of just two or three tracks, while the bigger arrangements (up to thirteen instruments in the centerpiece "Dancing Clouds") are still airy enough to evoke an empty desert-scape stretching to infinity. Even the overdubbed sixteen-voice choir of "Virgen de la Mar" underscores the empty feeling rather than lessening it.

The cast of instruments may happen to be rooted in Europe and Asia this time, but Inland Sea is a beautifully textured soundscape not tied to any time or place. With airy tones and earthy twangs, Micus grows something both worldly and otherworldly—mysteriously alien but with something familiar and organic underlying it all. It makes for an atmospheric listen as alluring as it is unclassifiable.

Track Listing

Haze; Sowing Wind; Dawn; Flor del Sur; Reaping Storm; Dancing Clouds; Virgen de la Mar; For Shirin and Koshru; Dusk; Nuria.

Personnel

Stephan Micus: nyckelharpa, voice, shakuhachi, balanzikom, genbri, guitars, zithers.

Album information

Title: Inland Sea | Year Released: 2017 | Record Label: ECM Records

Post a comment about this album

Tags

Shop Amazon

More

Read Earth
Earth
Dave Liebman
Read Urban(e)
Urban(e)
Mike Fahie Jazz Orchestra
Read Hiding Place
Hiding Place
Mark Murphy, Folk Artist
Read The Truce
The Truce
Markus Reuter
Read Data Lords
Data Lords
Maria Schneider Orchestra
Read In Igma
In Igma
Pedro Melo Alves
Read Blood Moon
Blood Moon
Ingrid Laubrock + Kris Davis

All About Jazz needs your support

Donate
All About Jazz & Jazz Near You were built to promote jazz music: both recorded and live events. We rely primarily on venues, festivals and musicians to promote their events through our platform. With club closures, shelter in place and an uncertain future, we've pivoted our platform to collect, promote and broadcast livestream concerts to support our jazz musician friends. This is a significant but neccesary effort that will help musicians now, and in the future. You can help offset the cost of this essential undertaking by making a donation today. In return, we'll deliver an ad-free experience (which includes hiding the bottom right video ad). Thank you.

Get more of a good thing

Our weekly newsletter highlights our top stories and includes your local jazz events calendar.