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Vocal artist Johanna Elina Sulkunen planned to isolate herself in a small cottage in Iceland and to make field recordings in Icelandic nature for the second part of the trilogy of her solo project Sonority, «Terra», her follow-up album for «Koan» (Ilk Music, 2018). But the Covid-19 pandemic forced the Finnish, Copenhagen-based experimental composer, known from the vocal ensemble IKI, into isolation in her home studio. She had to draw inspiration from imaginary landscapes and the Copenhagen skies. She enhances her sonic vision and on «Terra», Sulkunen asks the listener to question our modern life, the mass-scale globalization and its often destructive relation to nature.

The first part in Sulkunen’s Sonority trilogy, «Koan», defined her aesthetics – minimalist and suggestive vocals wrapped by subtle electro-acoustic layers and accompanied by field recordings from Buddhist temples. «Koan» was also an interpretation of the paradoxical wisdom of Zen Buddhist Kōan texts, and by breaking language into phonetics Sulkunen discovered new and challenging sonic qualities as material for compositions and improvisations. «Terra» expands her aesthetics and matches the vocals and the electronics into a string quartet – ensemble Halvcirkel, reeds trio – Carolyn Goodwin, Francesco Bigoni, Henrik Pulz Melbye – and the drums of Anders Vestergaard.

And if «Koan» offered a visionary artistic journey towards enlightenment, «Terra» suggests an urgent and alarming call about the fate of Earth. Sulkunen still creates nuanced, haunting soundscapes, but on «Terra», these minimalist soundscapes sound more claustrophobic, even disturbing, clearly aiming to distract the listeners from their comfortable numbness. The improvised playing of the strings and the reeds musicians intensify this melancholic, apocalyptic atmosphere of «Terra». But as in «Koan», Sulkunen delivers her unique artistic vision, a global one this time. She demonstrates how the human vocals can be a therapeutic instrument, conveying the stunning beauty of nature, its healing potential as well as our urgent need to reconnect with it.

Eyal Hareuveni 

Johanna Elina Sulkunen (v, elec), Halvcirkel: Bettina Marie Ezaki (vio), Pernille Kristiansen (vio), Mika Persdotter (viola), Nicole Hogstrand (c). Carolyn Goodwin (s, cl), Francesco Bigoni (s, cl), Henrik Pulz Melbye (s, cl), Anders Vestergaard (dr)

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