YOU MAY recognise the name Francesca Ter-Berg as the cello side of the leftfield folk classical improv duo Fran and Flora that turned heads a while ago, from Café Oto to Women’s Hour, with their electrifying rejuvenation of Eastern European traditional sounds.
That vibrant partnership with violinist Flora Curzon released the impeccably imaginative Unfurl in 2019, an album which explored the boundaries that could be travelled within klezmer music and was elevated by the telepathic interplay between the two collaborators. So news of Ter-Berg’s next adventure, a solo EP, In Eynem, available from April 16th on Phantom Limb imprint Spirituals, is an intriguing and enticing prospect for all those who look for the extraordinary out there on the fringes.
It’s a release that doesn’t disappoint, bringing immediate rewards and hinting at long-term affection. Drawing from the same palate as Fran and Flora’s work it melds melodies from Yiddish and Sinti Romani roots with cello-based explorations, pulses of electronica and found sounds. Yes, In Eynem may be experimental, but its soundscapes are far from random sketches; they are mapped out with a sense of purpose and compositional nous.
The EP’s foundations are two lengthy electronically charged pieces. The opener, “Hinges”, unfolds through subtle passages that open out over an expansive 12-minute reveal. Introduced by a deep wailing resonance from Ter-Berg’s cello, like some lost species in conversation, the track gradually emerges for air, taking in more conventional chord progressions and reviving glimpses of mournful traditional tunefulness.
As the relative calm passes “Hinges” uncovers another layer, pushing deeper into the booming rumble of a strange inner world where percussive scratches and rattles semaphore with distant machine sounds. It’s a track that takes you places, way beyond the conventions associated with Ter-Berg’s instrument and into similar territory excavated by fellow cellist Oliver Coates.
The more direct “Wtybcrechk” shares the same quest for adventure but with a focus on the possibilities bouncing off from a powerful electronic pulse. A yearning eastern lament glides between the chimes and mechanic beats before a tense escalating drone gains some temporary momentum. As “Wtybcrechk” ebbs away, the tidal wash of strings and voices introduces an emotional pause that’s gradually snuffed out by an ingenious stuck groove endgame.
The raw intensity of these freeform live recordings is anchored on the EP by two traditional Yiddish and Sinti songs. The brief echoing acapella, “Oi lhr Narishe Tsionistn”, snapshots rebel music from the early 20th century in its celebration of workers’ solidarity and the power of the collective. It also highlights Ter-berg’s strong expressive voice and hints at the melodic swoops that she draws from in her improvisations. That rich, natural vocal also remains prominent in “Me Sonowa”: a swaying lament for the lost lifestyles of travelling people played out vividly against sparse pulled strings before ending with an ominous reverberating shutdown.
Such balance between past, present and future sounds is what gives In Eynem a real identity. It may be presented as a ‘first peek’ into Francesca Ter-berg’s solo projects but the EP represents much more than a hastily assembled sampler. This is unique music that sets out to make a deep connection with those that listen in and from those first moments to the final bars never ditches that commitment.
Francesca Ter-Berg’s In Eynem EP is available now digitally and may be purchased at Phantom Limb’s Bandcamp page.