ProgressoR / Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages


Balkan Horses Band (International) - 2004 - "Contact Part II"
(39 min, UBP)


1.  Black Mile 7:36 (Obrovac)
2.  Danube's Bank 16:10 (Balkan Horses Band)
3.  Bridges 4:35 (Theodorou)
4.  Kostas from Skidra 11:01 (Spassov)

All arrangements: Balkan Horses Band.


Tamara Obrovac (Croatia) - vocals & vocalizes; wooden flute
Theodosii Spassov (Bulgaria) - kaval; melodica; vocalizes
Krassi Jeliazkov (=) - acoustic guitar; tamboura 
Stoyan Yankoulov (=) - drums & touopan 
Kostas Theodorou (Greece) - double bass
Vlatko Srefanovski (Macedonia) - electric guitar
Sanja Ilic (Serbia) - grand piano
Emil Bukur (Romania) - pan-flute 
Hakan Beser (Turkey) - percussion

Produced by Jeliazkov.
Engineered by V Ignatov.

Prolusion. "Contact Part II" is the second album by the international ensemble BALKAN HORSES BAND and is the continuation of their eponymous >debut. Recently, they also released a DVD, which is in my queue to be reviewed for the next update.

Synopsis. Most jazz composers don't relate Jazz-Fusion to Jazz, preferring to call it simply: Fusion. Indeed, this musical direction is not nearly the same as a traditional or classic Jazz. I also consider it not to be jazz, and only with a gun pointed at my face I'd dare say "Yeah, those flowing flute or acoustic guitar passages are real ad lib, invented by Afro-Americans as a way to express their soul moves. These arrangements can by no means be regarded as stored in advance which is part of the old European tradition of composing music amenably to the symphonic harmonious laws, unlike weaving a melody impromptu within a set harmonious scale". In practice, the abundance of typical improvisations turn out to be close to real jazz stuff, but this is not the case when I need to talk about such things, as here we have nothing else but a very cohesive synthesis of Jazz and Progressive Rock. Nevertheless, I believe it's erroneous to 'deprive' the term of the corresponding prefix, as the word "fusion" as such explains nothing and sounds rather obscure, especially to the novice lovers of one of the principal Progressive Rock genres, starting with those for whom English is not their first language. Of course, this seemingly abstract introduction to the material directly concerns its heroes. On their second album, the Balkan Horses Band appears before the listener as a classic European Jazz-Fusion ensemble whose music, while being extremely unique, continues the best traditions of such of the genre's great units as The Mahavishnu Orchestra, Return To Forever, David Rose Group, Brand X and, partly, Weather Report. Still, the band plays effervescent instrumental music, a fusion of a few styles, which I'd rather arrange in another way: Jazz-Fusion with elements of the Fifth Elementary Art-Rock and those of Folk music. Yes, there are still enough of the Balkan and Oriental folk music-related colors in the musical palette of "Contact Part II", but not as many as on its predecessor. This remark is especially topical regarding Black Mile (1), which is the only real song on the album, and its 'track list' counterpart Kostas from Skidra (4). Only Tamara Obrovac's solos on flute are definitely folksy on these, while her vocals and vocalizes are probably neutral in character throughout the album and have more in common with those by Flora Purim on the Return To Forever eponymous debut than with her own singing on "Contact I". The album's opener features a drum solo, but for the most part it was performed without drums. Done somewhere between Symphonic Progressive and Jazz-Fusion, with a few repetitions in vocal themes, Black Mile is the Balkan Horses Band's most accessible song to date, and yet, it is one of the most charming and beautiful of their compositions, which may solidly enlarge their audience by those into Art-Rock. The same words, however, can be applied to the entire album. Although the other tracks aren't notable for distinct symphonic textures, they represent a real, highly progressive Jazz-Fusion with pronounced elements of Balkan and related, Oriental, folk music on Danube's Bank and Bridges (2 & 3) and only some of those on the last track. The solos of acoustic, electric and bass guitars play equally prominent roles in the arrangements, as well as those of drums and hand percussion instruments. The other main soloing instruments are Grand piano and a wooden flute, while the parts of pan-flute and the Saz-like sounding Kaval are widespread only on the Danube's Bank, which, though, is the longest track on the album, and, along with the relatively short Bridges, is one of the very best compositions in the band's repertoire.

Conclusion. The band took the right step, having moved towards less polymorphous, more immutable and, thus, easier comprehensible music forms on their second recording. "Contact Part II" is as an outstandingly original and interesting recording as its predecessor, but being more accessible than that, it possesses an immediate attractiveness. If you, for some reason, didn't get into the band's debut, try it again by listening to "Contact Part II", and I believe you will easily repair an omission. All you need to become an adherent of Balkan Horses Band is patience. To those profound and open-minded Prog-heads who are still unacquainted with the ensemble I strongly urge to do it, as they are really huge. Just in case, please also start with their second album. It will serve an essential stage for you to comprehend everything by this excellent outfit. All their works, without exception, are real progressive gems and are superb masterpieces from any standpoint. (>Top-20)

VM: August 2, 2004

Related Links:

Balkan Horses Band
UBP Records


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