The launch of Elysian Fields’s second studio album was delayed from earlier this year due to COVID-19 restrictions, which allowed the group to coincide their launch event with the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. Fika is an album about precious time spent with family and friends and it builds on Elysian Fields’s strong Scandinavian influences.
In the wonderfully cozy venue of Mary’s Underground, Jo Truman warmed the crowd up with a performance inspired by the isolation and ambiguity of lockdown throughout the last few months. Using recordings of sounds from around her home, including bird calls, cicadas, and a slobbering dog, Truman responded to these sounds with a combination of piano and voice. At times Truman mimicked the sounds, blending her human vocal quality with the inhuman and ambient. In particular, the intimate noises of a snuffling dog, alternating between eating and growling, was unsettling and an interesting investigation of disgust in sound.
Then Elysian Fields were warmly welcomed to the stage to launch their newest studio album. The concert included songs from the album as well as some even fresher numbers composed by members of the band and young Australian composer Alice Chance. Some songs from Fika will be familiar to Elysian Fields fans from their previous album What should I say, released in 2018.
To begin the band played “Living”, a song that nearly sounds like a highland ballad with its steady and comforting rhythm of violin (Susie Bishop) and electric viola da gamba (Jenny Eriksson) overtop piano (Matt McMahon). Other crowd favourites played were “Frid På Jord (Peace on Earth)”, a mournful piece arranged from a Swedish folk song and featuring a beautiful lengthy piano opening, and “Cold Soul” which really captures the band’s eclectic sound, mixing folk with jazz and contemporary.
For two pieces Elysian Fields veered away from their Scandinavian roots. The first was a piece composed by Eriksson from a French 17th century tune that sounded like a happy middle-ground between a waltz and a jig, upbeat with prominent drums (Dave Goodman). The second example of new work was a piece composed by young Australian composer Alice Chance called “Shadow”. This was quite a different tone for Elysian Fields but the more contemporary feel and strong lyrics allowed Bishop’s crystalline vocals to shine through more so than usual, supported by quick bursts of saxophone from Matt Keegan.
Of course, with a sold-out audience, the band was urged back on stage for an encore in which they played a piece originally composed by Siebe Pogson, the band’s former bass guitarist. Replacing Pogson was bassist Jacques Emery who stepped into the song’s bass solo with a cool confidence.
Elysian Fields are well-known for their unique mixed jazz sound and this new album brings to the fore their Swedish influences as they continue to incorporate folk tunes into an eclectic combination of instruments and contemporary tastes.
Fika was launched on November 1st at Mary’s Underground as part of the Sydney International Women’s Jazz Festival. To listen and purchase the album, please visit the Elysian Fields website.
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