Emilia Mårtensson
Babel ****

Emilia Mårtensson returns with a selection of songs that represents her best work to date. Imbued with a bittersweet vision of the reimagined sound of the singer/songwriter’s craft that reached a peak in the 1970s and fused with a ‘lost’ world of jazz vocals that never truly existed in its own right, Mårtensson’s voice nonetheless is not plugged in to any genre in an obvious sense. After all she emerged almost as an instrumentalist by proxy with Kairos 4tet and has that exciting beyond-vocals aspect to her artistry where her melancholic voice is only part of the story.

Much more complete than her earlier nonetheless highly promising duo album with Barry Green, And So It Goes (it’s good that Green also appears here so knowingly), possibly because of the more ambitious arrangements, say on title track ‘Ana’, which includes strings in a melancholic mood piece with a music box quality and a sense of saudade. The song in Swedish, ‘När Som Jag Var På Mitt Adertonde År’ (‘When I Was in my Eighteenth Year’), where the folk-like side of Mårtensson’s songcraft rises up is an important element retained from her earlier work. The strings and the setting again make all the difference on ‘Black Narcissus Music’ and the lines ‘When no one’s around she colours the ground/True she blooms when there’s no one’s around’ could hardly be more appropriate on a song and album that thrives on contemplation and represents significant artistic growth.

Emilia Mårtensson plays the Pizza Express Jazz Club, London on Tuesday 4 March to launch Ana. 

Updated and corrected, 28 February 2014, with a link to a review of a Barry Green trio live appearance; and the Ana launch date; plus new video (added 3 March) for 'Harvest Moon'