Album Appreciation: Edena Gardens

Those who peruse this website with any frequency will appreciate how much I like the El Paraiso Records label out of Odense in Denmark, and have waxed lyrically about the amazing artists they have put out over the years… including, but not exhaustively: Mythic Sunship, Kanaan, Monarch, Psicomagia, Futuropaco/ Justin Pinkerton and Landing… all, as you will read in the links, brilliant artists who have put out high quality products for the label.

However, and I don’t know for sure, but there seems to have been a shift in the label’s output to focus on the work of Danish musicians around the label’s ‘house band’ Causa Sui, which remains one of my favourite outfits. For instance, a significant part of the label’s recent output has revolved around Causa Sui’s Jacob Skøtt’s work with Martin Rude. First there was Rude and Skøtt with ‘The Discipline of Assent’ and ‘The Dichotomy of Control‘ both of which, as you can read through the respective links, I thought were brilliant. The duo invited Tamar Osborn in on alto sax and flute for ‘The Virtue of Temperance’ adding further dimensions and layers to their music… and then that trio have became a quintet, with Al MacSween and Jonas Munk (also of Causa Sui and El Paraiso), to become the London Odense Ensemble. It is Rude and Skøtt who feature here, this time with Nicklas Sørensen (Papir), who Jonas Munk has also worked with here.

Now before continuing I have to say that clicking on the links I have included in the above two paragraphs will send you down a wonderful series of rabbit holes of excellent music… but they also underline this idea that El Paraiso’s more recent output orbits significantly around the work of a few core musician, and is all the more rich for that fact.

This is something that is born out with the release in question here except, and this is the reason for the rather circuitous tour through the label’s back catalogue, I think that Edena Gardens is one of the finest albums that El Paraiso has put out… and that, as you can see, is up against some pretty stiff competition. It is also quite unlike anything the label as put out before, and I perhaps detect a little bit or nervousness in the press release because of this, when it states: “Edena Gardens is a thing to be experienced first hand – it’s not for everyone, but those who decide to stay are greatly rewarded.”. So while I couldn’t really comment on the first part of this sentence, I can really recommend that you go with it, here’s why.

Right from the beginning of ‘Aether’ you are struck by the downbeat nature of the playing, an intense introversion which seems to persist throughout the set. Here the space between the instruments is broad and palpable. Every note seems precise, yet there is also a looseness here that feels born of improvisation. And, really that is the story of the whole album… and, I’m going to have to level with you, I’m not going to be able to do a track by track appreciation of it because I just keep drifting off as if cosseted by its soft and comforting tones… this really is an album that you can just zone out to as it really insists that you slow down.

In fact I have rarely found a record that is so difficult to write about while listening to it because it is just so chilled, so measured… but it is also very much an album within the El Paraiso sound because those guitar tones are so familiar to me. It has that ‘in house’ distinctiveness… and maybe that is why I find it so relaxing and comforting… because it takes the far more outgoing ‘regular’ sound that these musicians work with and seems to scale it down to some sort of jazz stoner minimalism. Yet there is a complexity within that… there’s darkness, but also a sunny disposition… that beautiful late evening/ Autumn sun that can lead to reflective moods, but can also make one feel melancholic for the day/ season gone by. There’s drones and electronic washes that give some ambience to the proceedings, but also a level of percussion that would often anchor something more upbeat and aggressive. I guess what I am trying to say is that there are contradictions within this set if you wanted to deconstruct it, but I would urge you not to, because this is definitely an album that invites you to go with its flow… and another example of what is proving to be a stellar year for El Paraiso releases.

‘Edena Gardens’ is available from El Paraiso Records here.



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