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TRACK LIST: 1. Balkan 2000 9:20 (Ilic) 2. Touch the Moon 8:06 (Obrovach) 3. Friend's Song 8:42 (Theodorou) 4. Gypsy Song 7:00 (Stefanovski) 5. Viki's Song 5:18 (Spassov) 6. Anathema 11:59 (Ilic) 7. Kalajdzisko Oro 10:02 (Macedonian) LINE-UP: Sanja Ilic (Serbia) - grand piano Tamara Obrovac (Croatia) - wooden flute; vocals Theodosii Spassov (Bulgaria) - kaval; melodica; vocals Stoyan Yankoulov (=) - drums Krassi Jeliazkov (=) - acoustic guitar Vlatko Srefanovski (Macedonia) - electric guitar Kostas Theodorou (Greece) - double bass Hakan Beser (Turkey) - mallet percussion Emil Bukur (Romania) - pan-flute
Prolusion. "Contact" is the debut album by the international ensemble BALKAN HORSES BAND. Most of the group's members are classically trained musicians with vast experience in playing Jazz, Rock, and Classical music.
Synopsis. To be honest, I was expecting to hear something traditional, close to so-called World Music, etc, and I am very glad that I was wrong in that presupposition. There is no New Age or Ambient nor any other modern styles that by some people are mistakenly considered to be progressive. While not a pure Progressive in the traditional sense of the term, the music here is truly and exclusively progressive. Furthermore, the textures that any more or less experienced Prog-head would immediately recognize as those directly linked with Progressive Rock are the inalienable part of each composition and, besides, are one of the basic constituents of the band's music in general. Like the legendary violinist Lakshminarayana Subramaniam, whose principal creative purpose was the uniting of Indian and European Classical music by dints of Rock and Jazz, this unique formation doesn't recognize any borders or frameworks in their creation. Not only a conglomerate of several genres and styles, but also a blending of different musical cultures is what "Contact" (indeed contact!) is about. Overall, the album is surprisingly integral in style, which, at least partly, is due to the fact that the kinds of Balkan musical folklores, presented here, have much in common among themselves and have a strong Eastern feel to them. In that way, a fantastically original and inventive combination of classic Jazz-Fusion and (just) Balkan folk music, filled with flavors of the oriental music, would probably be the most correct brief stylistic definition of this unique material. The only more or less noticeable exceptions are Touch the Moon (2), flirting with Tango (!), and Kalajdzisko Oro (7), a traditional Macedonian song, which, yet, the Macedonian 'electric' guitarist Vlatko Srefanovski has transformed into somewhat of a Balkan blend of Jazz Rock and Prog-Metal! Two of the seven tracks are real songs: Touch the Moon with excellent dramatic singing by Tamara Obrovac (in Spanish, otherwise I won't believe my ears!) and Gypsy Song (4) with male vocals and lyrics in one of the Slavonic languages where many words sound familiar to me. Most of the instrumental pieces contain Tamara's wordless vocals. Nevertheless, the music on the album is always complex and, still, is always harmonious. The episodes with the arrangements where the parts of Rock instruments, including piano and acoustic guitar, have a clearly European feel to them, and those of flutes, percussion and some other instruments are definitely of an Eastern origin are present on each composition, and this is the most wonderful combination of different musical schools I've ever heard. It sounds more wonderful and impressive than even 1984's "Conversations" by Subramaniam and Stephane Grappelli. Surprisingly, even Friend's Song (3), composed by the Athenian Theodorou, has elements of Oriental music, though I expected to hear the Bouzouki of Greek traditional folklore. Well, only the history of Balkan states can explain the fact that each of the tracks here has flavors of Turkic music. But does it really matter in the context of creation? Not. These are just particularities of The Balkan Horses Band's music, which is just progressive music at its best.
Conclusion. I will only add here that this album is full of beneficial freshness and some unspeakable magic. Much more progressive and generally much better than Ancient Future, no offence intended. If your tastes aren't limited by Art-Rock and Prog-Metal, bravely undertake this amazing musical journey. It will broaden your progressive horizons even if you are certain that there is nothing in the world of music that would be able to surprise you.
VM: May 5, 2004
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