After three years during which Minco Eggersman mainly devoted his energies to creating soundtracks for films (Jaap van Heusden’s In Blue for the better part of 2016) and documentaries (Sinan Can and Thomas Blom’s Onze missie in Afghanistan for Dutch national TV), he now delights us with solo work under his own moniker again: KAVKASIA.
KAVKASIA was born from a four-wheel drive trip Minco and his wife took into Georgia (‘KAVKASIA’ is Georgian for ‘Caucasus’). It reflects the search for beauty, fortitude and rest, that took Minco deep into the Caucasian mountains. The rugged, broken landscape, in which each sound and every impression pervades one’s very pores, landed him a mixture of humility and comfort.
From the mountains you look down on Tbilisi in the valley below – a babel of languages, cultures and interests, a clamor for attention (‘Tbilisi calls’). Looking up, you will meet three monks who will go a day’s walk just to buy a bread. You taste the ambiance of orthodoxy, the threat of neighbors around, and the steadfast desire for tomorrow’s beauty. In silence you honor the fallen (‘Home of the Brave’), and at the same time hope is never fully gone (‘Mount Ararat’, the mountain where Noah’s ark supposedly stranded).
Minco’s development from singer-songwriter at the crossroads of Americana and alternative into a soundtrack composer has provided a new twist and sharpness to the character of his storytelling. His stories are incisive and picturesque, but he uses even fewer words in telling them. What he does voice, is simple, striking and more finely defined than ever. An impression is enough, just like the entire record is exemplified by the little cross from Gergeti Trinity Church that Minco carries in his purse as a living memory.
The evolution of Minco’s musical idiom is equally remarkable. Known for lo-fi in his early career, you will now hear crystal clear recording by i.a. Jan Borger that together with the open arrangements sometimes flows towards jazz. The mixture of neo-classical, a bit of post-rock and avant-garde bring to mind the last works of Talk Talk and Jan Garbarek (‘Holy Ground’).
Much of the material on KAVKASIA has been based on field recordings in Georgia by Minco and director Yaron Cohen; recordings that actually bring Georgia into the listener’s living room as if the listener is really part of the songs. A farmer working his ground, a whistling river flowing, bells from afar, the soft ticking of the rain and the birds that flee when the mist quietly unwraps the mountains provide an outstanding space and depth in the mix (with the help of again Jan Borger and René de Vries), as in Minco’s earlier sound experiment on RESERVOIRS.
To provide this extraordinary project with the nuance it deserves, Minco again cooperates with a host of guest musicians. Cellos are played by Svante Henryson (known from his work with Elvis Costello and Ryan Adams), and Jonas Nyström – who worked with Minco on In Blue earlier, just like Svante – took care of the intense organ recordings in one of the most beautiful churches in the north of Sweden. The fantastic bass parts are added by Audun Erlien (known for being part of many ECM albums of Nils Petter Molvaer, Mathias Eick and Silje Nergaard). Vocals on ‘Melisma & Gurian’ and ‘Deda Ena’, in two local languages, are provided by Buba of the Iberi Choir. Besides Oene van Geel on violin, and the strings that are contributed by the famous Macedonian Symphony Orchestra from Skopje, Paul van der Feen of the Metropole Orchestra adds the saxophone.
When Minco met Yaron Cohen (known for his beautiful documentary Until the Quiet Comes that has been shot in the mountains of Georgia), this soundtrack to Georgia actually came full circle. For ‘Hidden in Clouds’ and ‘The Other Side of Dawn’ he delivered the breath-taking videos that together with the beautiful photography by Jolke Balt and Minco himself, plus fine artwork by Robert-Jan van Noort of Pankra, made KAVKASIA complete.
Minco, a drummer by original trade, consciously chose to omit the drums altogether so the music would serenely evaporate into silence like a mist on the mountains.
Quotes by a few colleagues:
Phil Brown (engineer i.a. David Bowie, Beth Gibbons, Pink Floyd):
‘Great sounds – warm and beautiful – I love what you get, can’t fault it!’
Mathias Eick (ECM): ‘Really nice sounds, very filmatic!’
James Marsh (designer for i.a. Jamiroquai, Talk Talk and Time Magazine): ‘Very nice and atmospheric as always, I’m a fan.’
Steve Jansen (drummer of Japan and David Sylvian): ‘Lovely sounds and visuals. I’ll take it all in with appreciation.’