Emilia Mårtensson – Ana ★★★★


Babel BDV14126 – Emilia Mårtensson (v), Barry Green (p), Sam Lasserson (p), Adriano Adewale (perc) and Fable String Quartet. Rec. July 2013
Immensely subtle arrangements, exquisitely beautiful songs, and, at its centre, a voice of quite remarkable expressive depth. With her second album, the Londonbased Swedish vocalist Emilia Mårtensson has struck gold. Coloured by the use of strings (the excellent Fable String Quartet) and percussion, and featuring a core band that gets to the very heart of the music, the various streams of Mårtensson’s artistry – Swedish folk songs, singer-songwriters and jazz – are subtly drawn together into a profoundly satisfying whole. Named after her Slovenian grandmother, the otherworldly opening to the title track sees the singer’s voice floating ethereally over beautifully sustained string chords. Three songs written by up-and-coming London-based songsmiths (and friends) – Jamie Doe’s ‘Harvest Moon’, Barnaby Keen’s ‘Learnt from Love’ and Emine Pirhasan’s ‘Tomorrow Can Wait’ – are all outstanding. The touching Swedish folk song ‘När Som Jag Var På Mitt Adertonde År’, a suicide note from a teenage girl, is driven solely by a lonesome bass ostinato and percussion, while Joe Henderson’s ‘Black Narcissus’, with new lyrics penned by the singer, transports you to a melancholic hinterland. Highly recommended.

– Peter Quinn