FAME Review: Dálava - Dálava
Dálava - Dálava



Available from Dálava's web site.

A review written for the Folk & Acoustic Music Exchange
by Mark S. Tucker

I've been itching to get to this disc. Having been sent a SoundCloud clip by Ron Kadish and the bad boys over at Rock Paper Scissors PR, I was both chilled and thrilled by the fusion of avant-garde, ancient, and progressive musics so masterfully interpolated in the very first cut, Ach, Bože Můj, simultaneously a slice of terrene and cosmiche eeriness. The track aches with unexpressable emotions amid dark and heavenly thoughts from lost eons, in fact would have been killer accompaniment to sections of The Keep, a film scored by Tangerine Dream…though even Froese would've stepped aside for this stuff. Then elements of Gabriel's magnum opus Passion welled up, and I knew I'd been turned on to a masterpiece.

Which it is. The second cut jumps back into the old pastoral life but with maddeningly perfect violin work from either Skye Steele or Tom Swofford—can't tell which, maybe both trading off—like a Richard Greene gone around the bend in a landscape cleaving to visual norms while understructured with Slaughterhouse 5 intimations, beautiful while dangerous, inhabited by the barely seen ghosts of ancestors. Through it all, Julia Úlehla sings in the aquiline voice of a lost angel wandering forlorn yet wondering, captivated while anguished. A Ty Moja Najmilejši erupts and a certain rage, the human side of the constantly unstable equation, emerges as the song progresses, Aram Bajakian's guitar plucking at raw nerves. The more I listened, the more fascinated I became.

This is music of a different order than what the West, the East, or even the Balkans, each with their own exotic rarefied strains, are used to. It's neo-avant-progressive art with a literacy that Ashton Smith, Lovecraft, and Hodgson but especially Dunsany would've relished. Small wonder, then, that Bajakian, the center of the band, has worked, gigged, and learned with and from such figures as Lou Reed, John Zorn, and Marc Ribot, shockwave riders of an onrushing Second Florentine Renaissance still gathering steam. Mamičky fairly explodes after its precessors but does so with the sort of hi-energy refinement that Mission UK or Immaculate Fools might have used in different context. The amount of influences all through Dálava, in fact, is staggering, from Fripp to Faust to Faure and well beyond; meaning: there's also a hellish degree of original thought going on as well.

Pigeonholing this music is all but impossible. Úlehla (great granddaughter of the biologist/ethnomusicologist Dr. Vladimir Úlehla, who transcribed the folk songs the CD is based upon) is at times like a Dagmar in high dudgeon, then seems a refugee from The Penguin Cafe Orchestra or Third Ear Band, and more than once mindful of Ophelia after Hamlet was done messing with her. Much of what's being done on the instruments is so twisted that you have to listen carefully to make sure what you're hearing is what you're hearing, even though frequently it isn't and you haven't a clue. I possess a very large and quite varied music collection, but I've never heard anything like this…and I sure as hell want to hear more. Forget drugs. If you're feeling jaded and way out of sorts, this is exactly what the Mad Doctor prescribes. Of course, you'll then be even further outta whack…but loving it.

Track List:

  • Ach, Bože Můj
  • Ej, Lásko, Lásko
  • A Ty Moja Najmilejši
  • Aj, Jurenko
  • Mamičky
  • Nech Je Pán Lebo Král
  • Hory Hučá
  • Lítala
  • Milá Má
  • Vyšla Děvcina
  • Hájíčku Zelený

All melodies and texts are taken from Vladimir Úlehla's Živá Píseň, and all translations have been worked by Julia and Martin Úlehla, but if you think that explains it all, you're out of your mind: Dálava is the brainchild of Adam Bajakian and Julia Ulehla.

Edited by: David N. Pyles

Copyright 2014, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
This review may be reprinted with prior permission and attribution.
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