Filip Topol

Filip Topol & Agon Orchestra

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Encounters between rock and classical music rarely yield anything that both camps can be proud of. This collaboration between Psí Vojáci singer and leader Filip Topol, a leading figure of alternative rock during the communist regime in Czechoslovakia, and the internationally renowned contemporary classical ensemble Agon Orchestra stands atop most crossover experiments. The person to thank is conductor/arranger Petr Kofron, who did a marvelous job in adapting Topol's at times angular, at times free-floating songs of despair. The singer performs his pieces, his voice either singing from the heart ("Kruhy," "Cerny Sedlo") or reciting with a dead tone. Kofron's arrangements bring back memories of Philip Glass and Arvo Pärt, along with subversive elements of blues and jazz. Undulating but precise cycles of notes can morph into blurry clusters as the orchestra moves from the focused to the cacophonous with delightful pleasure ("Russian Mystic Pop Op. IV," an instrumental piece presented as a bonus track, makes a perfect closer in that regard). The danger in such a project would have been to render Topol's songs pompous or grandiloquent, or -- even worse -- drench them in syrupy melancholia. Instead, they come out strong, full of subtle atonal shifts that make their lyrics more poignant, their melodies memorable. Strongly recommended to those interested in Czech rock.

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