Åland Islands

14/04/2022 Synth-Viola Duo Jeremiah Chiu & Marta Sofia Honer Release Ethereal Ambient Debut From The Baltic Sea Archipelago

Islands themselves are a wonderful natural concept, come to think about it. Simply describing a piece of land surrounded entirely by water, the word itself evokes a world of imagery and sentiments, a metaphor, deeply ingrained in the human experience. Islands are vastly symbolic and often excite mixed feelings. They are ambiguous at best, representing both isolation and refuge, a welcome escape or even a place of no return. Though not all islands are necessarily isolated. Some islands come in groups, creating a unique and scattered topography that is nothing short of miraculous.

Said island gatherings are commonly referred to archipelagos and the Åland Islands represent one of these extraordinary expanses. The Åland Islands are an autonomous region in the Baltic Sea, located between Sweden and Finland and consisting of around 6,500 islands of which only about 1% are inhabited. One of these small island municipalities and home to a population of about 320 is Kumlinge. Kumlinge is also home to a small inn named Hotel Svala, which US-based artists Jeremiah Chiu and Marta Sofia Honer helped friends 'barn raise' in 2017. 

Chiu and Honer are"both active members of the notoriously interconnected improvisational and experimental music scenes," and were instantly "taken by the serene and strange quality of the place." Eventually, as they explored their new environment, the idea to record there began to take shape. "The sun doesn’t set in the summer (and barely rises in the winter). The network of miniature islands is traversed by ferry which 'casts a surreal horizontal movement through space and time, with islands shifting into and out of periphery, totally still and calm, yet always in motion,'" says Chiu.

It wasn't before 2019, however, that the two returned to Kumlinge on a grant to perform a concert in a 14th century medieval church. "The concert was recorded and became the source material - along with improvisations on viola and electronics, pipe organ, pump organ, piano, synthesizers, field recordings and voice memos, all captured across both their trips at various locations on the archipelago – from which they meticulously crafted a post-script in the form of 'Recordings from the Åland Islands'." 

The duo's debut full-length "Recordings from the Åland Islands" was released early last month on progressive Chicago-based imprint International Anthem and is composed of 11 spellbinding tracks, soundtracking their personal island experience through a rare combination of modular synthesizer and viola. Chiu's electronically infused undulations are fertile ground for Honer's radiant strings and serve to further amplify the ambient affair, providing a deeply organic feel to the album’s ethereal touch, a sound texture that is absolutely mesmerising and pure atmospheric bliss. Moreover, it offers an opportune, vicarious retreat from all the daily brouhaha, if only momentarily.

You can now stream/buy the full album via the player below and watch the companion footage to "Stureby House Piano". Jean Trouillet also included “Snåcko” in his latest episode of Globalwize.

AUTHOR: Lev Nordstrom