EJS is Helena Espvall of Espers and Marielle Jakobsons and Agnes Szelag of Myrmyr. With two violins and a cello at their disposal, they make a deep, refined racket that serves as a natural follow-up to last year’s underlooked Fire Star. All three of these performers are fine musicians in their own right, but something in their entwined performance marks this release as their most superlative effort to date. The handcrafted packaging is a testimony to the bounteous pleasures found within.
The last few years have been very good to string and electronics combos, although typically a single person has been behind the bow. The makes EJS sound fuller and richer than its competition. “Black Frost” dips into Russian caves of sleeping bears, dancing on the edge of devolving, yet bravely holding its form. The 14-minute centerpiece, “Arctic Raids”, begins with tentative flirtation – an extended bow here, a draw there – but warms as it progresses. By its mid-section, soaring melodies and swooping counterbalances set into play a conversation that end in, and then erupts from silence, like a lament born from frozen shock. “Ice Age” is dark and forlorn, a ballad of extinction, the last twitch of the last mammal overtaken by the finest filament of ice.
The album’s core is its lack of confinement. While “Fissure” and “Ice Age” set off from graphic scores, none of the pieces adhere to format or convention. Each allows just enough form to provide access, then shuts the door. The three players then wander as they wish, hopscotching scales and progressions, sure of their general direction but not of their every move. The listener is carried along on this journey like an injured mountaineer on a sledge, worried about the journey but trusting in the guide. We hope these fine performers will find time to work together again. (Richard Allen)