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Katalena - Cvik cvak! CD (album) cover




Prog Folk

3.96 | 8 ratings

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4 stars I've loved Katalena's sound as well as their story since I first heard of the band several years ago. After beginning as a temporary music workshop project, the band have developed over the past decade into a full-fledged group with a fairly deep repertoire and a tight sound matured over several studio albums and a healthy live performance schedule. Their fourth studio album shows the band at something of a creative peak after an ambitious but somewhat uneven concept record with the 2006 release 'Kmečka ohcet'.

'Cvik cvak!' opens with "Inferno" which sounds a bit like their first record with folksy flute and what sounds like a plucky xylophone, but quickly launches into a rich blast of guitar, mandolin, strings and percussion befitting the song's title. Musically this is a great song including some great instrumental woodwind solos, with the one drawback being the group-chant vocals that don't quite live up to the grand layer of sound laid down behind them. As with the rest of their catalog the mood is quite upbeat though, and the song provides a great mood setting opening for the rest of the record.

"Ćanīnawa", like most of their second album, is rhythmic and at times almost hypnotic with piano and percussion leaning more toward the band's earlier jazz-inspired sound while the woodwinds and acoustic strings are firmly set in folk territory. "Banërinä" is similar though slower-paced and more ballad-like, and here Vesna Zornik's vocals and the clarinet playing of Bostjan Gombač are quite seductive.

After the brief interlude of "Misko korosko" that mood continues with "Zapīskul nu zatrumbatol" which also has a decidedly cool-jazz feel and irregular percussive rhythm along with more of the omnipresent woodwinds. Once again the group vocals prove to be a tad bit distracting at times, but Ms. Zornik's voice dominates and offsets any shortcomings of the rest of the band's singing.

"Ta solbaska" and "Za isi svit" are two of the longer tunes on the album and eat up nearly a quarter of its length, with the latter being one of the more distinctive ballads in the band's catalog and imbued with some absolutely gorgeous strings, flute, piano and string- bending guitar work. A truly lovely piece that surely inspires slow-dancing and nose-to- nose eye-gazing among lovers at their live shows.

The mood picks up a bit after that, including the toe-tapping "Ta aldowska" with persistent maracas, lots of synthesized keyboards and a pulsating dance beat. This is the sound that drew me to these guys in the beginning, a delicious blend of traditional folk themes and modern musical sensibilities. I'm not sure how popular they are in their native Slovenia, but I could certainly imagine this one on any Top-40 FM dance-radio station's rotation throughout Europe and in the States.

The highlight of the album is the nine-minute dance/jazz/techno melding titled "Lisīca", a hodge-podge of fat clarinet, soaring electric guitar and subtle keyboards framed by a blend of violin and mandolin set to a decidedly danceable rhythm that manages to border on drone without quite getting there. This may be the best example yet of the band's ability to merge the traditional with modern musical concepts and studio technology. And here all the vocals manage to work well together. Definitely 'Best of' material.

The band hints at possible future direction with the closing "Inferno 25" which is sort of a dance-remix version of the opening track that includes spoken-word vocals backed by the same slightly-annoying male group vocals that the first track featured. Not my favorite song by any stretch, but certainly one that shows the band's creative reach and potential for popular appeal.

In all I think this is probably the strongest overall effort from the band to-date, and while it doesn't quite fit any of my definitions of either progressive or folk music it manages to cover a lot of ground that at least skirts those territories even if the music isn't firmly grounded in any of them. The most noticeable trend is the movement away from a heavily jazz-leaning sound, although those influences are certainly not gone by any means. Overall I think this one just makes the bar as a four-star effort, and one I'd highly recommend to folk and jazz fans who aren't too attached to purely traditional music of those genres.


ClemofNazareth | 4/5 |


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