Vladimír Václavek's first solo album remains his strongest, a wonderful time-tested album of acoustic guitar-driven alternative Czech folk. Fresh out of the avant rock band Dunaj, Václavek shifted gears to produce this quiet album almost entirely on his own. The songs consist mostly of multi-tracked, cycling, interlocking acoustic guitar parts and gravely, almost murmured vocals. Václavek also adds some keyboards and light percussion to some pieces, but those are exceptions. Miroslav Cerny contributes viola to three pieces, fellow Rale members Josef Ostransky and Takumi Fukushima appear in two, and Zuzana Jelínková provides backing vocals in four. The guitars strongly evoke Robert Fripp's League of Crafty Guitarists, most of all the work of the California Guitar Trio, but the vocals take the music somewhere else, closer to folk, although it is hard to imagine that there ever was a folk guitarist this metrically precise and meticulous. His vocal range is very limited when he sings softly like this, but he uses his voice efficiently, lacing his guitar parts around the melody, turning it into a leitmotif. This album is commendable for its cohesion and the consistently high quality of the songwriting. Highlights include (but are in no mean limited to) "A Nebe Je Na Tvych Rtech" (with Ostransky and Fukushima), "Ticho Kroku," and the instrumental "Báre." In terms of songwriting, instrumentation, and approach, Jsem Hlína, Jsem Strom, Jsem Stroj foretells Bilé Inferno, Václavek's lauded collaboration with Iva Bittová. Recorded in 1991-1992, the album first came out in 1992. Indies reissued it in 2005, adding English translations of the titles and three brand new songs that fit in well with the original album.
Review by François Couture