Elysian Fields’ latest offering Fika — The Scandinavian Project, is a celebration of culture, personal history and sharing together during times of isolation.
Formed in 2015, Elysian Fields are Jenny Eriksson (electric viola da gamba), Matt McMahon (piano), Matt Keegan (saxophone), Susie Bishop (voice & violin), Siebe Pogson (bass guitar) and Dave Goodman (drums).
The ensemble’s second album, Fika, released on 10 July, is a creative genre-blurring project in response to the ongoing covid-19 crisis.
Fika is a Swedish term for a coffee break, but means much more than that. Founder Jenny Eriksson said, “Fika is about making time for friends and family, to share a cup of coffee and a bite to eat. You can’t do fika alone although ironically, as I write this, many people are isolated or separated from those they love.
Long before the current crisis we wanted to create a beautiful recording that would bring people together, as fika does. This music is our offering to the world.”
Featuring works with a Scandinavian theme and original compositions by band members, the album is a stimulating and thought-provoking experience.
The opening track, Jan Gunnar Hoff’s Living, was inspired by a fjord in Norway. The bright string melody is like a bubbling stream, and as the piano and drums enter, the current builds and flows.
Next, Sofia Karlsson’s Frid på Jord (Peace on Earth) evokes a sense of serenity. The viola da gamba plays long, dreamy notes with a rich timbre. The gentle vocals float over the top of the simple, lulling piano part. The listener is carried away.
Heigh-ho! The Swedish folksong Vi ska ställa till en roliger dans (We are going to put on a fun dance) lives up to its name. The piece opens with buzzing strings and held saxophone pulses, before the vocals and drums come in and pick up the pace. With the traditional folksy strings and catchy words, it’s hard not to dance along.
The pace slows again for Pers Erik Olsson’s soothing Låt till Far (Tune to my father). The trio for violin, viola da gamba and piano resounds with harmonies and a warm, mellow tone. The motif evokes nostalgia, longing and memory.
Then, the Swedish folksong Når som jag var på mitt adertonde år (When I was in my eighteenth year) speaks of youth and unrequited love. The work has a melancholy feel with slow vocals, sax and viola da gamba.
The meditative mood continues with Jan Gunnar Hoff’s Meditatus. The soaring vocals repeat the words of the Latin mass, seeking peace and mercy. The vocals, strings, and piano make way for a sax solo, before returning.
Matt Keegan’s Cold Soul depicts the majesty and beauty of the Scandinavian landscape through lush strings, trickling piano, walking bass and pattering drums.
Siebe Pogson’s The Tragedy tells a story of love, loss and the human condition. The work features a sorrowful viola da gamba melody, angelic vocals and piano.
Believe Beleft Below by Esjörn Svensson, takes advantage of the voice-like quality of the viola da gamba, in harmony with the soprano and sax. The mellow, rich timbre of the viola shines through, allowing the listener to float away.
In all, Elysian Fields’ Fika is a throughly enjoyable album, taking the listener on a journey through Scandinavian folk music and more.
Find some time to enjoy fika with friends and have a listen.