Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Album Review: Storsveit Nix Noltes - Royal Family Divorce

Storsveit Nix Noltes sit somewhere in the murky peripheries of that ill-defined genre ‘world music’, a brush with which lazy hacks tar those artists who exist outside of Camden. This is definitely true of Reykjavik’s finest purveyors of traditional Bulgarian folk music, whose latest album sees its UK release courtesy of venerable indie stalwarts Fat Cat. The 11-strong Storsveit (or ‘big-band’) feature some key alumni from Iceland’s indier-than-thou fraternity, not least Múm keyboardist Kristín Valtýsdóttir. Balkan-tinged indie has been en vogue for some time (see Zach Condon’s Beirut or Gogol Bordello’s gypsy-punk) however none could accuse the staunchly traditional Storsveit of jumping on any such bandwagon. Upon first listen Royal Family – Divorce explodes as an impenetrable torrent of mathematical orchestral noodling. However, as one’s lazy western ears adapt to the Slavic racket the tight, focused musicianship and intricate melodic interplay become evident. Storsveit weave effortlessly through complex, almost polyphonic, textures in their zealous pursuit of Balkan authenticity. The album plays out like the soundtrack to some raucous Romany barn dance, with the bombast at times becoming rather overbearing (see: chaotic opener Wedding Rachenitsa). Other moments allude more towards the post-rock heritage of the collective’s other ventures, as in the gloriously static ridden trumpet tirade of Cetvorno Horo. Indeed, the driving percussion and rickety orchestration of album highlight Elenska Rachenitsa is reminiscent of a more succinct A Silver Mt. Zion. It is in these moments of more cohesive composition that Storsveit touch on something special, a quality far removed from many of Royal Family – Divorce’s ramshackle folk ditties.

Once again, this glorious piece is published
today in Bristol Universities Epigram.

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