In Greek mythology, the Meliae were a type of tree nymph. According to some sources, mankind actually originated from them. But regardless, the group represented the core of the primal, natural word, existing as creatures that were at once earthly and ancient while also completely indefinable and unbounded. It makes sense then, that bassist Ingibjörg Turchi took this to be the name of her ineffable debut effort ‘Meliae’.
The album, a melange of jazz, minimalism, rock and experimentalism, burst onto the scene in July and served up a vastly unique and surprising collection of bass-driven tunes. It ultimately won a 2020 Kraumur Award, among other accolades—surprising in a scene that seems to favour vocal-driven music over instrumentals.
Ingibjörg only started playing the electric bass at 20, after having studied flute, piano, accordion and guitar for many years. Something about the instrument immediately grabbed her and she turned her full focus to it.
“You can play very diverse things on the bass,” Ingibjörg explains. “There’s always something new. I love lyric bass—playing melodies on the bass—but I also love the groove of it, the range of the instrument and the contact you have with the drummer.”
Though Ingibjörg had previously played in many ensembles, it was only when she started working on her 2017 ‘Wood/Work’ EP that she fell fully in love with songwriting. “It’s not that long ago, only five years, but when I started working on ‘Wood/Work’, I went ‘Ah! I really love this!’” she smiles.
A 3D effort
‘Wood/Work’, a 20-minute long minimalist effort, thrust the peculiarities of the bass into stark, broad daylight. From light, delicate plucks to droning, strong dulcet chords, the 7-track release hinted at Ingibjörg’s capability to push the bass to its limits—something that was fully actualised years later in ‘Meliae’. In fact, a few of the songs on ‘Meliae’ are new, reworked versions of ‘Wood/Work’ tracks.
“It’s just exactly what it’s supposed to be,” says Ingibjörg of the album. “Everything is mixed-up and then added to that is the flavour of all the musicians playing who are all great and unique.” Said musicians include Hróðmar Sigurðsson on guitar, Magnús Trygvason Eliassen on drums and percussion, Magnús Jóhann Ragnarsson on piano, mellotron and vibraphone, and Tumi Árnason on tenor saxophone and clarinet.
“With the band, the songs expanded and came into 3D. You see it,” she says, smiling. “It’s all live, just played through together. We have all these nuances when we play. I love when stuff changes when played live.”
While asking Ingibjörg to pick a favourite song from the album is a bit like asking her to choose between her children, she does particularly enjoy the last song ‘Hydra’, especially when she’s given the opportunity to play it live. “We always do that one last in shows because it’s so calm,” she says. “We’ve gone all over the place, all around, and after all of that, it’s calm. I just like that.”
Of course, Ingibjörg hasn’t gotten many chances to play the album live, though she was lucky enough to have her release concert and play the Reykjavík Jazz Festival during that small window of summer when concerts were allowed. That said—in full 2020 style—she did indulge in many livestreams over the year.
“It’s always fun to play, of course, but you do miss the element of people in the room because [live music] is nurturing for both the audience and the performer,” she smiles. “I see the good in it, but I’m looking forward to when we can play live more.”
2021 should see much more for Ingibjörg, though, then just the return of live shows. The composer is currently working on a new album and will also play on upcoming efforts by Hróðmar Sigurðsson and Mikael Máni. If that’s not enough, she’s also writing a piece for the Iceland Symphony Orchestra.
But 2020 was exciting enough, Ingibjörg emphasises, and she’s particularly grateful for the unexpected and overwhelming widespread acclaim ‘Meliae’ received—especially the Kraumur award. “I was honoured,” she states simply. “They go through so many records and just choose six. I was very happy.”
Stream ‘Meliae’ on all streaming platforms and pick up the LP at the Grapevine Shop here.
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