Weather Report in Macedonia? Mahavishnu Orchestra touring Albania? Soft Machine laying down tracks in Bulgaria? Magma in…well, Magmaland??? Choban Elektrik sounds like all that and then a whole lot more, incorporating a wealth of Eastern European musics and influences with high-end fusion chops and interpolated modes. Every song here is taken from old origins but given a brand new set of feet to dance on, resulting in a hybrid that's extraordinarily captivating, lively, and cutting edge. Take Kopanitsa as just one example, a Bulgarian track that starts out as a variant of Reichian phase music with improv lines, Terry Riley's love of the region's sound more than evident, before moving into Zawinulian territory. And whence came Joe? That's right: Austria, with more than a small love for the music of the lands thereabouts. Ah, but then the song revolves back to a Mike Ratledge ambiance, and you find yourself wandering about, dazed and delirious, happy as a clam.
Choban Elektrik is basically a trio with a couple of sit-ins on a few tracks, and the acumen of the ensemble is more than a little jaw-dropping. Like the prog bands of old, it's obvious these gents have put in a LOT of woodshedding time, bottling in their music that elusive secret ingredient (sweat!) so absent from too much modern music, each composition dripping with the kind of chops most can only dream of. Tune in to Beratche from Prespa and get a taste of what impelled Shadowfax to turn out their heady work in Watercourse Way, yet it's an Albanian dance song sieved through distortion pedals and thundering rock grunge with sinuous lines. Jordan Shapiro proves he's just as wild on electric guitar as any of his ample keyboards while Phil Kester is perpetually going crazy on drums and percussion as Dave Johnsen nails the rhythm section to the floor, walls, ceiling, passersby, anything that gets within range of his four-stringed perambulations.
The cats 'n kitties over at the FlipSwitch PR agency and its associates are proving to be purveyors of some outrageously solid groups (Sagapool [here], Kmang Kmang [here], etc.), threatening to give Leonardo Pavkovic some fierce competition over at MoonJune. Good! Juggernaut competition is exactly what the good prog doctor ordered, and I, for one, couldn't be more delighted. Check Choban Elektrik out if you're finding yourself growing peevish with the simplistic nonsense on the radio, the jingly crap posing as soundtracking for television, or the insipid pseudo-ghazal knock-offs wafting out of New Age goop shops. Every single cut here will jet you right back to the glory days of the 70s as your hair catches on fire, brains start leaking out ears, and the surgeon down the lane weeps, knowing he'll never be able to wipe that beatific smile off your face should you drop dead of an ecstatic heart attack after boogying all over the neighborhood. And, as intense as it is, this is dance music, borrowed from the ancient of days and gloriously mutated, so you know Iannis Xenakis is shaking his booty up there in heaven as these transwarped refrains float through the clouds and into the great beyond.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2012, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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