Sometimes, you don’t know what you need in life until it gets tossed your way in the form of a Bucketlist review request. In other words, I’ve gotta thank Bulgarian, trad-jazz foursome Outhentic for swinging their second full-length, Transparent, our way. This bizarre and bold jazz fusion effort is nothing short of jaw-dropping. Let’s dive in!
A word of warning: this music will send most heads spinning way out of orbit. If you thought Igorrr’s Spirituality and Distortion was a wild ride, you ain’t ready! It’s difficult to overstate how out-there Transparent is. Initially, I thought I was going to have to give this record a bad review just out of sheer incomprehensibility.
Enter exhibit A: the utterly virtuosic, yet virtually unlistenable kaval playing of bandleader Zhivko Vasilev. Holy shit. This guy plays with a passion I’ve seldom heard, yet his use of dissonance, speed, and improvisation left me (and him!) gasping for air and made listening to this album a strange and often uncomfortable experience. I hate to be so critical of someone who is so obviously a world-class talent, but his work, like that of many artists in his league, blossoms only at the most inaccessible levels. Additionally, the shrill tones of the kaval, a type of flute used in traditional Balkan music, are quick to cause hearing fatigue.
Now, exhibit B: the haunting, bleak, and supple singing and vocal harmonies, courtesy of Rayna Vasileva. If, like most human beings, you don’t understand Bulgarian, her masterful singing will certainly add to the strangeness of your listening experience.
That being said, I’m glad I stuck with it. There is a lot to love here. The jazz instrumentation is top-notch and provides a somewhat Western backbone to this otherwise outlandish record (please understand, the term “Western” is used very loosely here). The combination feels just right after a few listens. Even Zhivko’s strangest kaval moments somehow blend in and form a coherent soundscape after some patient listening.
Highlights from this album include “Stiga mi sa momne le, Ti rechi, Momne le” which goes from melodic and melancholic to downright jazz-prog at the end. There are fantastic improv-style segments and funky time shifts in “Razoral dedo” – just what I live for! Of course, somekaval passages are more coherent than others. For example, in the instrumental “Rachenista,” Zhivko is given centre stage, and offers a convincing solo performance. Finally, “Rano e moma” wraps things up with a funky, disco-like dance number that feels refreshing.
All in all, this is a solid album featuring world-class musicians that only lost points for sheer inaccessibility. If you’re listening to this type of music, though, accessibility is probably not what you’re seeking, so by all means, dive in and enjoy!
Written by Henri Brillon
*edited by Danielle Kenedy