[Reviewed by Peter Marks]
I’m no fan of the christmas season, years of retail employment made me truly despise this time of year. The rush, the screaming children and the asshole parents were only part of the equation; what pushed it into the red were the songs. You all know what they are as they’ve been drilled into your head regardless of language or location the world over. If that wasn’t enough they’d change around the inflection of words so as to milk every last nuance. Every time the leaves began to fall I’d feel the bile creeping up into my throat at the thought of yet another round of holiday “cheer”.
Would that all collections of seasonal music have the range and depth which Avant’n’Gard have curated for us.
These arrangements are based off of traditional Romanian carols according to the press release but I’m not detecting any of the loathsome tendencies you’d normally cross paths with on ‘Colinde Netemperate’. No zippy brass, no repulsive odes to a jackass at the north pole… There are four members delivering these compositions to us, one of whom, Calin Torsan, I’ve covered before via Multmult’s ‘Zigzag’ record. Unlike that outing, he sticks to flutes and kalimba for this one; his band-mate Mihai Balabas plays electric guitar and works what I’d have to say is magic on the electronic end of things.
Maria Balabas’ voice is sumptuous, her delivery succinct without one off key note escaping her lips. Such enunciation! Gabriel Balasa handles his percussion with the aplomb of a seasoned veteran. His contributions don’t ever overshadow what the other three do and if anything add even further accentual detailing; Norzeatic slips in between these songs adding even more dynamics before melting back into the shadows.
It isn’t every day a bunch of musicians can achieve what these four have, perhaps it is the region they’re from which makes this release stand out so starkly; then again, these little revelatory excursions have become part and parcel for everything I’ve heard from their corner of the world. Admittedly, my exposure is limited but thanks to Thirsty Leaves Music my frame of reference is expanding. Holidays or not, they tell no lie when state you’ll probably end up listening to ‘Colinde Netemperate’ all year long. They’ve made a gateway to pass through into a strange, unexplored land so do your bit and play this around as many other people as you can.