``Krushevo`` 45rpm 180gm 2LP set (black)
If you are not familiar with the audiophile gems of MA Recordings (www.marecordings.com) I hope to introduce a snippet of this great recording catalogue to you in this review of one of my favorites, the evocative and expressive guitar duo of Vlatko and Miroslav in “Krushevo.” MA Recordings was founded in Japan in 1988 and its catalogue reflects the truly world-folk aspirations of its engineer, producer and designer, Todd Garfinkle. Garfinkle has taken his custom built recording equipment to all corners of the globe, seeking to record acoustic music performed in unique and significant acoustic spaces, whose sonic footprint leaves as much a trace on MA Recordings as the individual artists represented. Indeed, MA Recordings exists to promote the quality of sound, the importance of solitary sounds, their musicality and diversity, as much as the overall melodies and compositions presented. In the same way as Mary Oliver describes in her poem how gifts are bestowed by the sea, I find that when I listen to the MA Recordings I own, I am always rewarded with new sonic gifts provided by way of Garfinkle’s recording techniques in these grand and unusual acoustic spaces, partnered with the sheer artistry of the musicians he has collected under their roofs.
“Krushevo” is the name of the town in central Macedonia where, high in the mountains, a large concrete monument was built during the Josef Tito era in the mid-1970’s, to commemorate the Macedonians that rebelled against the Ottoman Empire. Garfinkle’s beautifully designed photos of this unique “space-ship” building on the disc’s jacket belie the beauty that lies within: the profound interplay of two great guitarists playing “Balkan Blues” reverberating in an astonishing acoustic environment. From the opening lines of the swirling traditional dance, “Gajdarsko Oro” (“Bagpipe Reel”), we are treated to Vlatko’s fleet footed solos on his Sakura nylon string guitar, perfectly foiled by Miroslav’s punctuations on his Ramirez classical guitar. Back and forth they go, masterfully climbing the steps of this furious melody until they come to a feverish climax. Once the last note is struck, your audio system will be tested to its maximum to convey the glorious decay of this last punctuated note reverberating off the stonelike walls of this unique, rounded acoustic space, ad infinitum. I have never heard such wonderful ambience of both recorded space as well as the body of the instruments employed.
We move from shimmering dance melody to a sweet, lilting melody of “Jovano, Jovanke,” with both players lightly and oh so delicately improvising, pushing the envelope of jazz riffs, Eastern rhythms and sprightly chord changes. Where this exploration goes is anyone’s guess, but there is no doubt as to the mastery of the players, the inner beauty of the song and the way the unique acoustic space colors and intertwines with this creation. At the song’s conclusion, there remains a solitary note from a guitar, delicately lingering in the air and walls of this round acoustic space. This same acoustic portal provides the vessel in which Vlatko and Miroslav forge an involving chemistry of give and take, rock and roll and pulsating earthy melodies, spun from songs in the Macedonian folk tradition.
On “Ni Prela Gora Ni Tkala” (“The Forest Doesn’t Weave and It Doesn’t Knit”), each guitarist takes a turn with a glowing soft melody, turning it around and around, employing sweet caresses and long held notes that reverberate deep into the acoustic space. Harmonics trail away as smoke and then we are set off to see “Dafina With Cheeks Like Red Wine,” an ancient song from the East, with a rounded, warm melody that will stay in your head for a while. Here, Vlatko shows off his razor sharp plucks on string, where (if your system is up to it), each quick transcient echos off into the corners of the acoustic space, deep inside this unique chamber. Finally, we come upon the dobro and its magical resonant qualities played by Vlatko on “Ajde Dali Znaes Pametic Milice (“Do You Remember Milica?”), partnered with the strums and beats placed upon the wood body of Miroslav’s guitar. Once again, I have never heard such a beautiful recording of the acoustic body of a wooden instrument as when Miroslav lightly taps his guitar in accompaniment, or how the strums on Vlatko’s dobro extend into the air, leaving the sound to permeate and literally dance upon the walls of this unique recording space. This culminates a very special sonic journey these two masters of the string in their pilgrimage to this hillside village in Macedonia. Garfinkle’s brilliant capturing of this musical event will indeed resonate in your heart and mind long after the last note is struck.