Helena Espyall & Masaki Batoh Helena Espyall & Masaki Batoh

The first thing you need to know about Helena Espvall & Masaki Batoh is they do not make pop music. They make serious music and music for seriously minded individuals (or those who like to think they are seriously minded). And this is to be expected; Espvall has spent most of her career behind the cello with neo-folk-psych revivalists Espers and Batoh has led Japan’s Ghost for well over a decade. On the duo’s self-titled album, this means the two bring a wealth of experience, which is put to use on eerie, downcast folk exercises that utilise everything from Espvall’s strings and Batoh’s guitar to harp to bass marimba to thunder sheets. And for much of the album, this instrumentation takes the form of traditional Swedish folk songs, along with several improvisational numbers and a cover of "Death Letter,” a Sun House delta blues classic. It all makes for an exquisitely played album but, for better or worse, also one that’s strictly reserved for deep, contemplative states. (Drag City)