Iva Bittova is a one-woman band from the Czech Republic. She plays violin, sometimes viola, and sings -- or rather, she sings, croons, grunts, and makes funny sounds like a madwoman. Somehow, it all works. It helps that the music was recorded in acoustically resonant places, like a church, because the reverberations help fill the sonic space. Most of the songs have a mood that falls somewhere between strident, haunting and whimsical. The nearest equivalent might be Ingrid Karklins, but Karklins is not a minimalist. But Bittova overcomes her minimalism with an incredible array of tricks. To take just one song, "Ne Nehledej (Stop Searching)," Bittova throws in a little bol singing, the rapid, tongue-twisting Indian chant made famous in the West by Sheila Chandra, plus a little overdubbing, a music box in the background, a little pizzicato, and some of her crazy cartoon-character sounds. The height of the bizarre is reached on "Dos Kelbl (The Little Calf)" the only track where Bittova is accompanied, by percussionist Pavel Fajt. Not only do we get cowbells and odd poundings in the background, but Bittova actually whinnies during the song. Most of the album is a bit more composed than that, resembling Joe Jackson's Heaven and Hell in its quirky intensity, although Bittova is of course working with smaller, less raucous forces. If studied weirdness is your cup of tea, grab a crumpet and put on Iva Bittova.
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AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner