Inna and the Farlanders
The Dream of Endless Nights presents traditional and contemporary Russian folk music in a startling context. Were it not for the quality of the other performances, the Farlanders' rhythm section would easily steal the show, a precise collaboration between the contemporary drum kit of Pavel Timofeyev and the slapped, plucked, percussive fretless bass of Sergey Kalachev, itself the lead instrument and sound effect on many of the tracks. Inna Zhelannaya's vocals are full, viscous, and take odd circuits around melodies. Two more Sergeys, Starostin and Klevensky, add a mix of clarinets, simple wood flutes, and an intriguing Russian shepherd's horn, the razhak, tonally reminiscent of both a shawm and a hurdy-gurdy.
"Twilight" begins with funky bass and drums spinning out a stuttering 6/8 beat, joined by Inna's slightly nasal vocal, a hint of drone, and a sprightly clarinet, spinning into a wonderful razhak break in an eccentric waltz rhythm. "Easter" dawns with exultant bells portrayed by the bass, lead vocals by Starostin, and wild razhak solos, building to an infectious excitement. The funky precision interplay of bass and drums ignites "Through the Orchard," dual rahzaks mocking dissonantly, flutes wailing, and can that dense, happy vocal fugue be emanating from only Zhelannaya and Starostin? A Klezmer figure of almost demonic abandon intersperses with Inna's dolorous vocal in "I Will Gather Grass," the Farlanders' instrumental drive promoting sadness to a kind of ominous threat. The Dream of Endless Nights is likely to leave you appreciatively speechless. - Jim Foley