An extraordinary choral, saxophone, pipe organ work recorded at Cologne's neogothic Catholic Agneskirche 18 months ago. The work relishes a process of transformation by crossing from both the temporal and spiritual spheres into an entirely other worldly dimension.
Think of the way the Hilliard Ensemble and Jan Garbarek leapt the centuries and successfully collided the relative modernity of the saxophone into ancient monastic choral traditions on Officium and Mnemosyne in the 1990s.
But instead by some way of contrast Medna Roso, which introduces Zagreb based microtonal New Zealand saxophonist Hayden Chisholm, who also utilises the sound of the Indian bellows instrument the shruti box among his array of contributions, is in collaboration with the PJEV choir. Very still and often lament laden rising up from the fearful rumble of a great Rieger 3-manual pipe organ Kit Downes is a stately presence - think Keith Jarrett on 1970s album Hymns/Spheres.
Directed by Jovana Lukic this Zagreb a cappella 5 piece ensemble - whose members are also Zvezdana Ostojic, Gloria Lindeman, Lana Hosni and Julijana Lesic - sing the ancient and often deeply moving music of Serbia, Croatia, Bosnia and Herzegovina.
And while Medna Roso is not at all redolent of a Gurdjieff-type inspirational reverie that informed Jarrett so much down the years the outcome has somehow induced somehow a kind of autoscopy but certainly a strong numinous sense. Downes' work builds on a template set on Wedding Music, the Norwich now Berlin based musician's album with Huddersfield's Tom Challenger.
- Medna Roso is out on 5 May. 'Listaj goro ne žali be’ara' is streaming. PJEV, main picture, and with Hayden Chisholm, above; Kit Downes top. Photos: Niclas Weber
MORE READING AND LISTENING:
- Sebastian Rochford and Kit Downes, A Short Diary - 2023 review
- Kit Downes trio, Vermillion - 2022 review