August 16, 2019
(tak:til/Glitterbeat)Three classically trained musicians from Slovenia make meticulously plotted episodic music that sounds lopsided
Širom: A Universe That Roasts Blossoms for a Horse review | John Lewiss contemporary album of the month
If you were to chance upon any fragment of the music made by Širom, you might reasonably conclude that it was some anthropological field recording, taken from a traditional folk compilation. There are bits where an ululating female vocal is accompanied by a banjo and what sounds like a Hardanger fiddle, and you could swear that it was something that – say – Nordic shepherds might have been playing for centuries. You’ll hear wailing reed instruments set against chaotic percussion, and for a few seconds you might think that you’re listening to the ecstatic Sufi trance music of the Master Musicians of Joujouka; there are slurring solos on indeterminate stringed instruments that invoke a Chinese erhu, or an Indian sitar, or a hurdy-gurdy.
Except none of this is actually “traditional” music. Širom are a trio of classically trained musicians from Slovenia – Ana Kravanja, Samo Kutin and Iztok Koren – who play dozens of instruments between them and describe their work as “imaginary folk music”. That phrase was first coined by the critic Serge Moreux in the 1950s, when referring to the way in which Bartók and Kodály processed traditional Hungarian melodies, but Širom’s folk forgeries are weirder and more pan-global. This is actually densely written and meticulously plotted music, played live on acoustic instruments, apparently without any overdubs. The songs (some of them 15 minutes long) are episodic, dreamlike voyages – qawwali-style vocal wailing and medieval drones mutate into free-jazz freakouts; steampunk techno (played on pots, pans and cutlery) shifts into gamelan music, anchored by squelchy bass sounds.
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