Stephan Micus: Panagia (ECM/Ode)

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Stephan Micus: You Are a Shining Spring
Stephan Micus: Panagia (ECM/Ode)

In a previous profile of the German-born musician Stephan Micus (here), I noted that his musical journey has run parallel to a deeply spiritual one and this album -- his 20th for ECM, settings of six Byzantine Greek prayers alongside quietly moving instrumentals -- would seem the culmination of a particular voyage.

As always the multi-instrumentalist and singer reaches beyond perhaps the more literal interpretations and from the opener I Praise You Unfading Rose (the album's title refers to the Greek word for female goddess, sometimes the Virgin Mary) he sounds more like a Hindu monk chanting a slow prayer.

And You Are the Treasure of Life which follows uses temple bells and dilruba (an Indian bowed violin-type instrument) to take the mood down even further into a meditative state.

The Greek element is more apparent in pieces like I Praise You Lady of Passion (a piece for 22 voices) and I Praise You Sacred Mother (20 voices) but mostly this is world music of no fixed cultural abode (but emphatically not New Age), like the best of Micus' work.

For more on the fascinating background to this album you should go here, but in the absence of any information this quiet, philosophical and gently mesmerising album transcends musical and spiritual boundaries.

An acquired taste perhaps but one to really turn off your mind and drift downstream . . .

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