The Miriam Kaiser Trio Tanec Strún
artist release (www.miriamkaiser.sk)
Review by Carolina Amoruso
Tanec Strún is a reverential reimagining of Slovak folk traditions fed into modern Western styles, mostly ballads, interpreted by the Miriam Kaiser Trio. Strings predominate - violin, viola, cello - with added percussion, jew's harp and synthesizer. The trio is Miriam Kaiser, violinist, arranger, vocalist; Milan Adamec, producer, arranger, violinist, electronics; and Júlia Vesselá, cello, with lyrics by Kaiser and Nad’a Mitanová.
The Slovak song tradition goes back to the 18th century and is said to be among the richest of Central Europe. Western music, newly embraced after being forbidden in the Soviet Union until its fall in 1989, is the axis around which these songs turn. Infused electronic strains contribute definitively these works, luxuriously padding the songs rather than usurping them.
"Dom Mojho Ja" (excerpt)
“Dom Mojho Ja” reveals a well balanced partnership of electronic and acoustic. There’s a playful, dull tapping throughout, like a mouse at the larder door, overriding the sound of falling water and repetitive soft synth chords. These ultimately give way to the sweet cadences of Kaiser’s voice and Vasselá’s warm and earthy cello. As more strings infuse the soundscape, echoes of Central Europe edge the song to an urgent crescendo before the drama is abruptly spent. A brief baroque-like resolution follows, and the piece moves out on cats’ feet, leaving completeness and calm. The beauty of this song, as with all of Tanec Strún, is that it is at once commanding and lyrical, like a punch thrown with a gossamer glove.
"Tanec Strún" (excerpt)
The intricate title song ("Tanec Strún" translates to “Dance of Strings.”), is stirring, bringing the cello to its fullest and most complex expression as it joins the violin on a commanding ride on the melody through a rolling terrain of dynamics. Kaiser’s vocal enters about mid-way, chant-like, full, authoritative, and gently charged. It’s a song of many moods, but lingers as a beautiful whole.
“Deva” (Maiden) is sophisticated and dreamy with pronounced South Asian strains. (Do I hear a suggestion even of George Harrison’s “Within You and Without You”?) Kaiser's violin and a jew's harp illusorily effect a harmonium's drone as the tune alternates between Central Europe (Kaiser’s vocal, mostly) and South Asia. Could this "maiden" be a Devi?
The sparest, and one of the loveliest, songs closes the album. With just Kaiser’s vocals, a synthesized piano, and some delicate electronic accents sprinkled throughout, “Umelec” (“Artist”) is a languid ballad set to a poem by Kaiser that marvels at the day and night time beauty of Nature and at the infinite number of miracles that inspires us to create.
"Vsetko Má Svoj Cas 2" (excerpt)
Only "Vsetko Má Svoj Cas 2" doesn't conjure the idyll that the rest of the tracks do, as it is rousing and martial, though the song would be praised if found in another setting as it knits quirky and disparate segments of varying intensity into an intriguing whole with near-seamless transitions.
By crafting sophisticated arrangements suggested by ancient traditions as well as a new world marked by diversity and exploration, Tanec Strún has given us an idyllic and memorable work of new sounds. - Carolina Amoruso