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Get Your Medieval Rocks Off with Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh's Overloaded Ark

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, September 29, 2009 08:00am | Post a Comment
 Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh second album overloaded ark on drag city
The last time Helena Espvall (of Espers) and Masaki Batoh (of Ghost) got together to create an album the end result resembled the kind of sound-tapestry two people of like-minded musical musings might weave over an ocean of space and time. Their first record (self-titled on Drag City) generated a quiet excitement from those of us at Amoeba familiar with the "new folk" weirdness of Espers and the psych-rock wyrdness of Ghost and seemed a sound-marriage of sorts where faded-about-the-edges Scandinavian tunes and other haunting works, both borrowed and original, mingled freely on relic-esque instruments. Nothing there suggests the kind of epic, blast-from-the-distant-past sonic onslaught of Overloaded Ark, Espvall and Batoh's second release on Drag City and the latest source of a new take on a very, very old favorite song. 
overloaded ark helena epsvall masaki batoh second album drag city
Overloaded Ark's opening track, titled "Little Blue Dragon," is a better known by the name of the merry dance it was originally composed for way back in 14th century Naples: the saltarello. It is played in a very fast triple-meter and named after its leading leap-step, in Italian, saltare. Of course, the composer credit for this song goes to the ubiquitous Anoymous who rules the bulk of any Early Music bin selections, but a version of the song, aptly titled "Saltarello," was made famous by that eclectic, neoclassical Australian band better known as Dead Can Dance (and if you've ever been to a Renaissance Faire or a Goth gathering where "dark" world music fits the rotation then I'll bet you a flagon of mead you've heard it before). Another version of the song, performed by Corvus Corax --- an outrageously outfitted German band who champion medieval music and authentic instruments, seems to share the same vein Espvall and Batoh tapped to give their "Little Blue Dragon" life. Espvall and Batoh's take on the Black Death era romp pounds out a feverish pace with traditional instrumentation at the forefront and electrified psychedelic meanderings fleshing out the background. It's really the perfect sort of aural "pants-ing" I felt I needed as a listener expecting to hear an extension of Espvall and Batoh's past works, only to be blown away with their new attitude. 

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Something Old, Something New: Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh's self-titled CD/LP out now on Drag City!

Posted by Kelly S. Osato, September 18, 2008 12:39pm | Post a Comment

Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh

 

When I first learned that Masaki Batoh, enigmatic frontman of the wondrously magical avant-psych band Ghost, and Swedish-born Helena Espvall, vocalist, guitarist and cellist of the equally magical folk-rock outfit Espers, were to release a record of their collaborative efforts, a wave of excitement swept me out of my shoes and into a frenzy of inspired musings that lead to an impulse purchase of a bottle of Framboise Lambic. After many repeat listenings of Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh, their simply self-titled releaseI can safely say that not only does the record pair well with the sweet, frothy drink, but also complements those early Halloween  decoration displays that are beginning to pop up all over town. The record and the drink spurred a flip through my battered old D&D Monster’s Compendium which led me to conjure a mental picture of a romantic tapestry woven by two modern day minstrels who, after recognizing their great esteem for one another, slipped away from their bands’ respective gypsy caravans silently in the night, running away together to the far reaches of the northern wilderness, making beautiful music together all the way.