Various Artists

Carohraní: Magic Playing

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One of the biggest assets of the Czech label, Indies for a while, resides in its pool of Moravian folk bands -- it also represents its best chance to reach an international market. Carohraní: Magic Playing is exactly that: an attempt to reach out, introduce, and seduce. With detailed liner notes in Czech, English, French, and German, and an all-encompassing selection of artists, Carohraní provides almost the best introduction to 21st century Moravian folk music one could hope for (to be the best, it would also need songs by Gothart and Traband, but these artists record for another label). The generous track list (22 songs, for 79 minutes of music) covers all grounds: traditional ensembles, revivalists, and modern rock bands, well-established artists, and newcomers. The comp draws from the albums released by Indies, but also presents material from the artists' self-released albums. The set starts with Hradist'an Folk Ensemble's luminous "Karneval" (from Zlaty Slunovrat), which immediately sets the festive mood. Tracks by Tomás Kocko and Muziga evoke the Medieval era, thanks to entirely acoustic instrumentation, and a traditionalist stance. As we move down the track list, the artists approach the tradition from an increasingly more personal side. Iva Bittová (represented by only one song -- she deserved more), Teagrass, and Docuku go beyond the Moravian mold, each in their own way. Benedikta introduces the rock element, and the last four tracks are given to alternative rock bands (Sad Harmony, Silent Stream of Godless Elegy) who find melodic inspiration in the traditional. Sad Harmony's shifting between a typically lyrical, vocal/violin melody, and heavy metal guitar riffs is a bit too startling to sit comfortably in the track list, but that's a minor flaw of an otherwise delectable compilation album. Highly recommended to anyone with an interest in Eastern European folk music.

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