Bulgara - Bear's Wedding

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Bear's Wedding
Messechina Music/Kuker (www.elen-music.com)

The Balkans are one of the world's great crossroads, a place where Turkish, Gypsy, and Arabic musics have all had a hand in shaping the musical landscape. Bulgara are a young, exciting combo that have taken a progressive tack in creating music that reflects the rich Balkan experience. At first, I was a bit put-off by Bear's Wedding: the music is treated with such slick production standards that I felt myself longing for more Balkan wildness to be felt. But the recording grew on me, as it became apparent that what Bulgara seek to do is to tease out the disparate influences and let them shine in the mix. Take their "Kopanitza," for example: the Balkan pipes and flute instruments dance in interplay, while the drums and bass set a stuttering foundation that mimics modern electronica. The dubiously titled "Balkan Flamenco" does not remind me of flamenco at all, but the energy cannot be denied. Throughout, Bulgara's wind instruments positively shine, rasping and wheezing to exhaustion, swirling like some unstoppable wedding. In fact, the lengthy title track includes multiple time changes, sweeping ever faster, until a violin comes in unexpectedly calling like a train in a bluegrass tune. Funk is abundant: on "Dreaminess," the song literally breaks apart; there is the sound of rain, and then a slap-bass. "Gayda Beat" is rife with fantastic percussion and odd ricocheting sound effects. One cannot doubt Bulgara's technical proficiency, and even the glossy sound can't destroy the band's achievement in creating their own identity from the wealth of nations that have produced them. - Lee Blackstone

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