Ergodos Musicians: Songs
In the end, it all comes back to songs. Though we may turn an ambitious ear to a Beethoven symphony, a Seamus Ennis reel or a late Coltrane improvisation, deep down, we crave songs and stories.
Young Dublin composers Garrett Sholdice and Benedict Schlepper- Connolly recognise the enduring influence that songs have had on their own musical journeys. The latest offering from their Ergodos imprint is a simple, almost austere collection of other people’s songs, nine in all, ranging from medieval hymns to traditional laments to contemporary pop. They are rearranged and reimagined by the pair for a poised and talented parlour group, including the fearless cello of Kate Ellis, the adventurous sax of Seán Mac Erlaine, and the clear, natural voice of Michelle O’Rourke.
The set opens with a song from the dawn of the Western harmonic tradition: Beata viscera by 13th- century French composer Pérotin, reconstrcuted by the musicians, and played over a drone like a breath held and slowly released.
The improvisations that intersperse the songs began simply as excercises, to loosen up before the next take, or to help the group to feel their way into the atmosphere of a new song. But as the impromptu pieces developed, several were committed to tape and have been inserted like a series of bookmarks that punctuate the album. There are songs here from Vivaldi’s opera Giustino and English renaissance composer John Dowland, as well as a haunting reading of the traditional I am weary of lying alone.
Beat the Retreat, with backing vocals from Schlepper-Connolly, is a beautiful re-fashioning of a Richard Thompson song. It strikes perhaps the most optimistic note on an otherwise dark album. Steve Earle’s Goodbye is arranged by Schlepper- Connolly for cello and his own jangle guitar with an urgent, almost serialist simplicity, against which Earle’s wistful words stand out like silhouettes on a distant horizon.
The album ends with Angels by British indy darlings the xx, so the repertoire covers an astonishing span of nearly 800 years. Nothing could better exemplify the continued vitality of the song tradition, or the excellent and unusual choices made by Sholdice and Schlepper- Connolly and their Ergodos Musicians. ergodos.ie