Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

Gorgeous Balkan and Appalachian Vocal Harmonies from Æ

Plaintive, austere, otherworldly and often hauntingly beautiful, this isn’t your typical a cappella album. Imaginative Brooklyn vocal duo Æ’s claim to fame is that they’re equally at home with earthy Balkan folk music as they are with Americana. The most innovative cuts here interpolate Applachian and Balkan themes, revealing the strange yet familiar commonalities in two styles that seemingly could not be more dissimilar. As the two voices interweave, one obvious comparison is Mariana Sadovska’s rearrangements of rustic Carpathian songs; other times, they evoke popular Brooklyn buzz band Black Sea Hotel. The two women were seemingly born to blend voices together – they could be sisters. Eva Salina Primack is highly sought after as a lead singer throughout the Balkan music world; Aurelia Shrenker, her onetime bandmate in the American folk group the Sirene Trio, is equally renowned as a performer and interpreter of Georgian ballads. Primack’s voice is a little more glimmering and gregarious, Shrenker’s somewhat more wary and haunting. But when the two switch roles, it’s effortless and at that point it’s impossible to keep track of who’s singing what. Their voices are augmented tersely and rustically with Primack’s accordion and Shrenker’s panduri, along with some striking violin by Jesse Kotansky on two tracks.

The first of the interpolations has Shrenker doing a potently effective slide up from her lower register. The second is hypnotic and eerie, drone versus melody, accordion looming ominously in the background; the last one contrasts Primack’s vivid Appalachian twang against Shrenker’s stately, low Georgian tones. Shrenker evokes Linda Thompson, apprehensive yet completely in command on a couple of stark Georgian folk songs, while Primack’s longing intensity on a Ukrainian number is goosebump-inducing. The Americana numbers here aren’t exactly yuppie-friendly singalongs: Wind and Rain (which many of you know) is a gleeful murder ballad with a decomposing corpse as its centerpiece, while Across the Blue Mountains documents an averted seduction, in fact maybe an averted kidnapping. There’s also a rapt, hypnotic, hymnlike Corsican song, several vividly bucolic mountain ballads from Albania and Greece and a klezmer tune done so affectingly by Primack, right down to the vocalese on the chorus, that there’s no need for a band behind her. Which could be said for everything else on the album. Æ play Banjo Jim’s on Feb 13 and Feb 14 at the Jalopy.

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January 20, 2010 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews, world music | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments

Top Ten Songs of the Week 2/23/09

Because we didn’t give the ladies enough props last week we’ve packed this week’s Top Ten with beautiful voices. Except for #1 which is so good it doesn’t need a beautiful voice.

 

1. The Brooklyn What – Gentrification Rock

Oh yeahhhh babee the Brooklyn What at the top of the charts again. Someday all those the luxury housing sites turning into crackhouses and squats. This is a ferocious youtube clip from the show last summer that  made our Top 20 NYC Area Concerts of the Year list. They’re at Don Pedro’s on 3/5.

 

2. The Blasting Company – Sinking Ships

Balkan noir cabaret from San Francisco that we discovered looking for a completely different band. Good stuff.

 

3. Black Sea Hotel – Makedonsko Devojche

Brooklyn‘s own all-female Balkan vocal quartet have an amazing debut cd coming out and this characteristically haunting number is one of them. Good guess is that the title means “Macedonian Girl.” They’re at Trophy Bar at 10 on 2/25

 

4. Hope DeBates & North Forty – Pink and Mean

This is a soul song, but the South Dakota expat also sings country. One of the most impressive voices to hit town in a long time, with a great band behind her. She does a marvelously deadpan-sultry cover of the Tom Petty AM radio monstrosity Breakdown

 

5. AE – Across the Blue Mountains

OK, even more beautiful voices. This an old Appalachian folk song, but the duo of Aurelia Lucy Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack are also part of the Balkan underground scene.  

 

6. Balthrop Alabama – God Loves My Country

The Bush regime may be over but the memory lingers. Lest we forget, here’s something funny and spot-on.

 

7. Randi Russo – Swallow

This is a brand-new one, one of her quieter, hypnotic post-Velvets songs. Unrecorded, but she’s been doing it a lot live recently. Get well soon Randi!

 

8. Helen Reddy & ELO – Poor Little Fool

OK OK OK, this is the schlocky Aussie singer from the 70s responsible for the odious I Am Woman (written by a guy – figures, right?). But since she didn’t write any of her songs, once in awhile she’d do something good and this is a good example, a Jeff Lynne pop song, with what sounds like the band playing it behind her! Weird or what! Just discovered this on youtube…

 

9. The Ahn Trio – Dies Irae

Absolutely beautiful violin/cello/piano composition from this sister act playing Barbes on 3/7 at 8.

 

10. Soil & “Pimp” Sessions – Crush

Fast groove jazz with a wild sax and a tinge of hip-hop. From Japan. Fun stuff. From their new cd now up on itunes.

February 24, 2009 Posted by | Uncategorized | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments