Paris To Kyiv
Prairie Nights and Peacock Feathers
Olesia (

cd cover This is an intriguing and artful release from Canadian singer Alexis Kochan and her band. The songs are based on ancient Ukrainian tunes, pre-Christian ritual music, and medieval chants. Kochan has a deep, rich, almost operatic voice that she uses to great effect on these evocative songs. Steering clear of vocal histrionics, she meticulously and thoughtfully crafts each performance. She is delicately and deftly backed up by Julian Kytasty on bandura and sopilka, Martin Colledge on cittern, mandolin, Northumbrian small pipes, and banjo, Richard Moody on voila, violin, and guitar, and Nenad Zdjelar on double bass. Zdjelar's work in particular stands out. He makes the usually ponderous bass dance and groove. Moody contributes a couple of Nick Drake-inspired original compositions. At first it's a little jarring to hear his English lyrics and sixties-folky strummed guitar after Kochan's minimalist arrangements of the Ukrainian songs, but it works in the frame of the larger narrative. His wordy songs stand in stark contrast to the painterly, haiku-like lyrics of the traditional tunes. Interspersed are some spry dance tunes penned by Kytasty and a rollicking Celtic-influenced reel by Colledge.

"Poylyphonic Songs"
Real Audio
One of the highlights of this disc is the set of two "Polyphonic Songs." These medieval songs are sung a cappella at the start, with Kochan and Kytasty's voices intertwining. Violin and bass gradually enter, and then take over with a jazzy jam interlude. All ends quietly with voices alone again. It's a rare and wonderful thing to find a disc so painstakingly constructed yet so emotionally satisfying. - Peggy Latkovich

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Audio: "Polyphonic Songs" ©2000 Olesia, used by permission Comment on this music or the web site.
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