Mulo Francel turned out to be somewhat ahead of his time. He didn't need to wait for a pandemic to send everyone into isolation; for several years before the 2020 outbreak, he already had a habit of making music in the middle of nowhere. His fascination with mountains (natural enough for someone who grew up in the shadow of the Alps) had him making climbs throughout Europe and Asia to find some of the most exotic recording locations imaginableultimately ten different summits over the course of five years.
On reaching the top, as he says, "the essence of the mountain becomes sound; the vastness of the view becomes melody." In these settings, his always clear-toned saxophone still comes out sounding clearer and purer than ever. Mountain Melody certainly feels as vast as those views, but Francel and friends (some trekking with him in person, others recording in studios afterwards) do it without a smidge of grandeur or bombast.
These pieces simply let the rich history and essence of each place beautifully speak for itself. A celebratory group session atop Greece's Mount Olympus conveys the subtlest kind of joy with flute, harmonium and balalaika. His visit to Iran's Shir Kuh produces a sinuous Persian waltz, full of haunting melancholy and mystery. An expansive three-part suite from Egypt's Sinai Peninsula has him switching to bass clarinet to complement a crystalline harp and the low twang of an oud. He recorded solo sax meditations on the Great Wall of China and in Beijing's Forbidden City, which blossomed into a shimmering Zen daydream with the later additions of glass harp and calming prayer-bowl-like chimes.
Francel has made a work of truly stunning beauty here. Everything feels deeply connected to the earth, being almost entirely analogue and anchored with a wealth of traditional percussion sounds. Each musical idea seems to contain a world of depth and atmosphere to be discovered with patience. The simple premise..."up there civilization is silent. No motors, no digital beeping..."allows for wonderful things to happen when the right players are open to it. All the parts add up to a gorgeous work that's equally majestic and humble, soaked in history but ultimately timeless.
The Viking; Lofoten Arctic Waters; The Wise; Invocation; The 11th Commandment; Olympic Voice;
Rising of Collective Happiness; Poet on a Mountain Top; Ikarus' Dream; Chant from the Mountain
Trail; Dance of the Stars; Vulcano; With or Without the Glacier.