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June 17, 2008

Espvall and Batoh are two of a kind, for now

Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh give the final performance of Friday night at Terrastock 7. 

They’re worth sticking around for, especially because we can’t be sure that this collaboration will be renewed after their short tour accompanying Damon & Naomi, an act that has appeared at every Terrastock. But we’ll be able to savor the synergy on their new, self-titled disc on Drag City Records.

This meeting of the Philadelphia-by-way-of-Scandinavia cellist/guitarist and the mastermind behind revered Japanese prog-rockers Ghost came about when Espvall foisted some demos on Batoh. Soon enough they found a quick opportunity for some sessions that included everything from improvisational tracks to re-castings of Swedish folk songs. The result is the sort of great one-off that’s typical from the Terrastock community. Varieties of ambient fusion are interspersed with introspective gentle songs, interrupted by the occasional bit of noise that violates the sensibilities of anyone who doesn’t know the difference between “drone” and “doze.”


LEO: Do you feel that this is a good time to be an independent musician in America? Have opportunities to be heard by your desired audiences (for live events as well as recorded music) increased or decreased in recent years? 

Helena Espvall: Yes, definitely … I moved to the U.S. from Sweden in 2000, and I’ve been amazed by the abundance of opportunities here, compared to where I’m from. In the U.S., I’ve had the chance to connect and play with the most mind-blowing musicians. There’s so much going on. It’s truly an exciting time.


LEO: You seem to have many projects and collaborative efforts going on at any given time. Does this stem from a drive, a curiosity, a restlessness? Has it grown over the years?  

HE: I wouldn’t call it restlessness. I just spend lots of time making music in one way or another. It might be playing in front of an audience, or jamming with friends in my living room, and I guess I’m very driven to collaborate with musicians who intrigue me. One thing keeps leading to another, and I find myself involved in an increasing amount of musical projects … 


Photo by Minoru Tsuyuki: Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh give the final performance of Friday night at Terrastock 7
Photo by Minoru Tsuyuki: Helena Espvall and Masaki Batoh give the final performance of Friday night at Terrastock 7

LEO: What do you hope to get out of your appearance at Terrastock? This seems to be the only festival-type date on the tour with Batoh. Is that a matter of fortunate timing for those in Louisville, or was there something about Terrastock in particular that you were seeking?

HE: Both Batoh and I have played Terrastock before: he several times with his band Ghost, and me with Fursaxa & Sharron Krauss in 2006. Many friends of ours will be performing, too, so most of all I’m happy to see them, and to listen to lots of good music. There’s a great sense of community at Terrastock that has a strong pull … I don’t think this tour would even be happening if it wasn’t for T7.