EPs / Cassettes / Mini-Albums / Singles
Ecovillage: Jesus Of Nazareth
For centuries classical composers have written works inspired by religion; while the practice is no longer as prevalent as it once was, there remain contemporary composers (Arvo Pärt and John Tavener spring to mind) whose works are grounded in religious doctrine, whether it be Christianity or otherwise. But in electronic music circles, one is far less likely to encounter a religious-themed project, though there are some: in early 2015, for example, Kit Williams Fegradoe oriented his Issa recording around Christ's journeys into India and his studies with Buddhists and Hindus. On their fourth Ecovillage album, Emil Holmström and Peter Wikström root their project even more explicitly in religious belief: there's the title and visual presentation first of all, but even more critically the sixteen tracks, each of which is a meditation on the life of Jesus. Ostensibly a concept album, Jesus Of Nazareth is based on The Gospel Of Mark, the second book of the New Testament, and the album, mirroring the Biblical content, presents a spiritual journey that culminates in crucifixion and resurrection.
It's important to clarify, however, that as forthright as Holmström and Wikström are about the album's subject matter, their treatment of the musical material is less direct, for the simple reason that, with one exception, the music is wholly instrumental in character. Had they given the tracks and the album generic titles and designed the package in an equally open-ended manner, nothing about the hour-long musical content would tie it directly to religion. Yes, there is a meditative character and sometimes blissful tone to the ambient settings that could be said to suggest a spiritual connection, but determinations of meaning are largely left in the listener's hands (that exception, by the way, occurs during the third track, “The Twelve Are Chosen,” where a voice can be heard intoning a Biblical passage).
Ecovillage eschews beats altogether, opting instead for luscious, symphonic miniatures, some heavy in strings, organs, and horns and others synthesizer haze and ethereal wordless choirs. A general air of uplift, even triumph, infuses a number of tracks, such that one such as “Talitha Kum” leaves the listener buoyed by its beatific quality. Guests Gayle Ellet (Moog, electric guitar) and Raymond Scott Woolson (electric guitar) contribute separately to four tracks as musicians and co-producers, but the album's otherwise all Holmström and Wikström. With Woolson sitting in, “Gethsemane” rises to a particularly luscious pitch, while “The Crucifixion,” with Ellet aboard, and “Resurrection” resonate as two of the most dramatic and celestial productions on the set. To say that Ecovillage is direct in its focus on a religious theme for the project is a gross understatement; the album benefits considerably, however, from a less explicit approach to its musical content. As off-putting as such a project might be in certain respects to a card-carrying New Atheist, it's conceivable that even the most fervent non-believer could be won over by the album's musical presentation.