Horea Crișovan’s My Real Trip – a heartfelt expression of love for the medium

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This week’s record is very dear to me for two important reasons. First, because I’ve followed the career of veteran guitarist Horea Crișovan for over a decade, during which time I anxiously awaited his first solo endeavor. Second, because it is a work I’ve had the opportunity to watch grow from primary recording stages to finished product.  After my recent interview with Horea, where he told me that he was preparing a collection of entirely acoustic compositions, we’ve kept in touch and he has sent me the “first drafts” of various tracks as he got around to recording them.

In a way, I am biased when it comes to My Real Trip, mainly because I was a fan of this album before it even existed. Throughout the years, fans have had the opportunity to enjoy this versatile musician’s work in numerous bands spanning various genres. While his technique has always been impeccable and his activity as sideman and band-member offered generous views into the depths of his talent, it always felt like the full extent of his potential was only rarely glimpsed. On My Real Trip, Horea gets to showcase music that is entirely his own, undiluted and uncontaminated by outside influences. The record was composed and recorded entirely by the musician (in his self-built sound-box in the middle of his living room), then sent to sound technician Adrian Popescu in Paris, who took over the mixing and engineering aspect (by the way, kudos to him because the sound is absolutely fantastic).

My Real Trip doesn’t only feature Horea the guitarist, but also Horea the composer. The listener finds him at his most comfortable: on acoustic, playing profoundly melodious, story-driven songs. This is the purest form of music: self-released, in limited edition, containing entirely and exclusively the artist’s vision – a veritable breath of fresh air in an industry cluttered with easy-listening tunes for the lowest common denominator. In a way, this is the anti-record: an independent work of art that celebrates the musician’s vision and character. This is Horea drinking wine, it’s Horea riding his beloved bicycle or retreating to the mountains to think. It’s Horea playing the music he loves most, with no-one hovering over him, telling him what to write or pressing him to adjust his compositions to the perceived demands of an easily distracted target-audience. His target audience consists of people who love music for the artistry and dedicate their full attention to it. His audience does not merely want to hear sounds, they want to experience music and My Real Trip delivers.

In that respect, this album is a rare occurrence.

The record begins with a song called “Intro Classic”, an appropriate opener because it encapsulates all the key elements of Horea’s compositions: the admirable technique, sublime musicality and most importantly, the narrative. “Enlight” follows in the same vein. Both are simple, straightforward tracks shaped in what I like to call “the a-b-a design”, where b is a lively, fast-paced middle-fragment framed by two delicate theme-based sections (a) which create a sort of introduction and conclusion to b. This only serves to strengthen the aforementioned narrative. In fact, when Horea sent me the tracks in their early stages of development I suggested a certain track placement in order to produce what I thought was the most coherent sequential flow (a writer’s habit). Fortunately, he did not take my advice and, instead, drew up a much better track placement which makes even more sense from a storytelling perspective.

The first two tracks are clean and tame, creating an identity for the sound of the album, after which the songs start branching out into more diverse themes and structures. The third song is “Times Passing By”, my personal favorite. It is a restrained and candid piece with a bit of a Spanish vibe whose brilliance lies in its profound subtlety and emotional expressiveness. It might not instantly stand out like “Bossa Rossa”, “Dance” or “Marco Polo”, but repeated listening reveals a very delicate work which manages the difficult task of being very sentimental while also remaining cerebral. Speaking of “Bossa Rossa”, it follows “Times Passing By” and further diversifies the musical landscape with some catchy bossa nova, leading into a formation of four powerful songs which form the core of the record, both in track-placement and symbolism.

The lyrical dynamic is dominated by two powerful themes: “My Real Trip” and “Mecanisme” (Mechanisms), which are preceded by “Dans” (Dance) and “Dream” respectively.  The duality of these songs,  expressed through their rural-charm-versus-urban-anxiety motif, forms the core of this album’s story. “My Real Trip” is introduced by “Dans”, with its fast-paced balkan-inspired rhythm developing into the slow, somewhat folk-sounding “trip” which evokes images of travel and country scenery. According to Horea, it’s a musical theme that has been haunting him for a long time. The balance is created with the somber, brooding  pair of “Dream” connected with “Mecanisme”, its sound-effects of beating clocks counterbalancing the natural, sacred charm of the aforementioned songs with visions of a synthetic, profane landscape. The story’s character awakens from a wonderful dream of freedom and bliss to find himself back in his consuming urban environment. The way in which this particular portion of the record is established and elaborated is nothing short of genius and will be as haunting to the listeners as it no-doubt is to the musician.  “Rain Still Falling” and “Nameless Song” continue with a lighter atmosphere, dispersing some of the tension from the previous “chapters” of this musical travel journal. If I’m not mistaken, “Rain Still Falling” is an older composition which I think I’ve heard before in one of his acoustic gigs. For me, it gave the record a nice touch of familiarity and continuity.

“Marco Polo” is another outstanding track, and the only one which features another musician, Leb i sol guitar-great Vlatko Stefanovski. I have to admit that at first I wasn’t thrilled about the collaboration, if only because this is such an intensely personal project for Horea that I felt any outside interference (be it Vlatko, Dominique DiPiazza or even Mark Knopfler) would feel like an intrusion and take away from the personal relationship between the listener’s ears and Horea’s mind. However, the Macedonian virtuoso supplies an outstanding contribution that never once feels out of place or takes away from the aura of intimacy that envelops the songs.  Far from being invasive, it helps paint a wonderful picture of the artistic relationship and profound respect between two musicians.

“Epilog” (Epilogue) does not, in fact, close the record. It is as if the artist felt that the song was too dark and restive and did not want the listener to feel burdened. Indeed, while it is an amazing composition which takes me back to Marc Ribot’s Silent Movies, it does not reflect the character of the musician like “Forrest Song”, in which the nature-loving guitarist predictably retreats into the woods, where the soul is at ease and the mind is free. This is the true epilogue to the story of this “trip”, a song with a powerfully anecdotal character, reminiscent of Mark Knopfler’s latest compositions (which is not a comparison I make lightly since I’ve been worshipping Knopfler ever since my teens). Thus, the final chapter is warm and lighthearted, accurately reflecting the musician’s personality.

All in all, while the music is very accessible for all audiences, My Real Trip is first and foremost a purist’s record. It is a work which demands complete focus. The message is powerful, but it is whispered, not shouted. Take your time with this one. Isolate yourself from everything but this amazing music. It will then reveal subtle nuances you would have never known were there if you had just relegated it to background- or car-music.

Horea Crișovan’s long-awaited debut is a heartfelt expression of love for the medium. The musician invites you into his own personal space and you truly feel like you are a part of his compositional universe. With this record, Crișovan proves that he is not only an admirably gifted guitar player but also a world-class composer whose rightful place is in the upper echelon of the international quality music scene.

by Andrei Cherascu

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The Music and Myth’s top 5 female vocalists

In my previous article I talked about working on my novel and the way in which music influences my writing. I use music to calm me down when I get restless (after hours of sitting in front of my PC) and I use it to invigorate me when I get tired. I also use it to help me mobilize my thoughts and let my imagination flow. On the backdrop of certain songs I shape scenes and characters and give them life.

My first novel (which for the time being is resting comfortably on my shelf) featured a character named Alan Waits. I used a line from Tom Waits’ “Sins of my Father” as an opening quote for a chapter in my second novel (which will definitely not lay forgotten on a shelf).

The main character from my second novel is a strong, intelligent and independent woman. As a male writer it was very important to me to shape her into a complex, multifaceted leading lady. Again, music was an inspiration. Thankfully, I have so many outstanding, smart and talented musicians from which to draw inspiration. Though the pop music scene seems bent on objectifying women and downplaying their talent while emphasizing what it perceives as beauty, the quality music scene fortunately abounds with strong female musicians who command respect through their artistic accomplishments.

Here’s The Music and Myth’s favorite female vocalists:

5. Florence Welch

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I was first introduced to Florence + The Machine by my wife, who is a great admirer of the charming and charismatic Florence Welch. Though at times the young British musician seems to only be teetering on the precipice of the quality-music scene (and I always fear her next step will take her plummeting into the side of pop that is easy on the eyes but difficult on the ears – this video feels like a bad omen) for now she has still managed to maintain her position through her amazing talent, which she expresses in her wonderful compositions, her powerful voice, her relentless energy and intense stage presence.

I first got acquainted to her through an awesome performance of “What The Water Gave Me” on Later… with Jools Holland. I was absolutely mesmerized. After listening to her first two records it’s clear that Florence Welch is a very serious musician swimming in not-always-serious waters. However, she has so far managed to stay afloat and produce two of the most fresh-sounding records of the last few years. What worries me is that, in spite of the irrefutable value of her own work, she has sometimes shown preference for music of dubious quality and has often exhibited a great admiration for exactly the aspects of pop music that her work itself seems to oppose (and successfully, I might add). With her third record in production, I sincerely hope she will continue on the same road. As long as she does she will remain one of (if not the) most original, credible and powerful female composers and vocalists on the present pop music scene.

4. Emmylou Harris

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She is the leading lady of country music. A distinguished and delicate musician who has been a constant presence in the country scene for over four decades, Harris exudes the grace and style of a true artist. I first discovered her work in 2006 when she teamed up with former Dire Straits front man Mark Knopfler (whom I’ve been worshiping since my teens) to produce a stellar record called All The Roadrunning. Her gentle voice and graceful personality were the perfect fit for Mark’s low-toned vocals and laid-back demeanor. Here is a song called “I Dug up a Diamond” which my wife and I loved so much we had it featured on our wedding video.

Also, their duet “If This is Goodbye” has been featured in an article I wrote called Secrets of Sadness: Four songs that will make you completely lose your shit. I believe it needs no further explanation. Ever since then, whenever I listen to country music it is most often either Johnny Cash or Emmylou Harris which I also believe needs no further comment.

  3. Cibelle

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Cibelle is another musician I wrote about before, when she absolutely rocked a rather difficult Tom Waits tune. I checked out her solo work when I came across this remake of Gilberto Gil’s “Punk da Periferia”.

This is quite possibly my favorite video on the internet. Everything about this performance is top-notch, from the way they’ve altered the original tune making it funny and bad-ass at the same time, to the cellist who looks like Helena Bonham-Carter and uses her instrument to make scratching noises like she’s Jam Master Jane, to the Ric-Flair-tastic cape on the drummer and the way the entire band just stops playing at one point to join in on the finger-snapping. Then, of course, there’s Cibelle herself. Everything about her is perfect in this performance: her voice, her dress, her facial expressions (which make up half the song’s “attitude”), the way in which she just casually fumbles around with the instruments looking disinterested and how she alters the sound-effects with her foot. Absolutely brilliant! There are other great Cibelle tunes out there (some of them remind me of Xela Zaid – shout out my man!) and they’re usually great but “Punk da Periferia” is perfect in every way and I must have listened to it hundreds of times. Cibelle is a strong musician with a bright future and a great understanding of the importance of performing.

2. Sofia Rei

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Let’s get this out of the way first: when John Zorn asks you to be in one of his projects (alongside the likes of John Medeski, Mike Patton and freakin’ Marc Ribot) it already means you’re a pretty big deal on the music scene. I first discovered Sofia in a video from Zorn@60’s Warsaw concert playing “Besos de Sangre”.

Initially I had checked out the video because it said John Zorn and I also saw the name Marc Ribot (which always means my Jazz-senses are tingling) but I quickly forgot that Zorn and Ribot were even there as my jaw dropped at the incredible performance of this young New York musician. In fact, why the hell am I even wasting your time here: go ahead and listen to the whole concert which is fantastic! I looked for some more of Rei’s work and stumbled across this little gem which would have made the old woman proud.

Whether she is playing with Zorn, performing classics with the Pan American Symphony or singing her own exquisite compositions this lady has a fantastic way of conveying emotion.

1. Patricia Barber 

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She is the Meryl Streep of musicians. Like the distinguished actress, Patricia Barber exudes intelligence and magnetism. Long-time readers of The Music and Myth will remember that Smash was chosen the Best Vocal Record of 2013. Her songs are veritable lectures in writing and composition and her stage presence conveys vitality and prestige. She is the standard-bearer for female musicians and Smash is her magnum opus. There is really not much I can say about Patricia Barber without falling into an elated discourse of celebration. Her music is smooth, well-timed, her voice is noble and refined and her lyrics are brilliant. As a writer, I feel she is a kindred spirit, and she herself seems to agree. In this interview, which preceded her latest record, she says: “I am a fiction writer.”

Indeed, an outstanding storyteller!

Florence Welch, Emmylou Harris, Cibelle, Sofia Rei and Patricia Barber are The Music and Myth’s favorite female vocalists. In an industry whose landscape is vast and constantly changing, it is hard to speak of the absolute best. These five musicians, however, manage to transcend the limits of the very music they perform. They embody their musicianship in a way that makes them indistinguishable from their art and that is an exceptionally rare occurrence. They are deserving of the highest accolades and their work comes highly recommended by The Music and Myth.

by Andrei Cherascu


Hey everyone, if you like my articles on The Music and Myth, perhaps you will also enjoy my novel Mindguard. You can find it exclusively on Amazon.

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Eberhard Weber’s Résumé – a testament to the versatility and undying power of creativity

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It’s been almost two months since I’ve written an entry for my musical journal. That’s because I am in the final stages of editing a novel I’ve been working on full-time for almost a year. It’s a work that is so important to me that one and a half years ago I decided to make a move which would completely change my life: quit my job in the IT department of a large corporation and become a full-time writer. I did that with this novel in mind. I’ve been working on it tirelessly, until it became twice as long as I had originally intended. Now, with the end in sight, I’ve been writing round-the-clock for weeks and it’s still been moving forward painfully slowly. I’m at the end of my rope and there’s still so much work to do. I’m burnt out. I’m exhausted. I’m depressed. I can’t think, I can’t rest and I can barely sleep. I don’t have the energy to work out and I’ve lost my appetite. I drink entirely too much. Every single second is consumed by thoughts related to my novel, its six-hundred page weight pressing on my mind every second of every day as I painstakingly labor on, trying to finish the editing process for the second draft. Nothing else exist. There is room for nothing else and it is absolute torture.

You might then rightfully ask why I am putting myself through this. The answer is: because it’s what I love to do. It’s something that I am extremely privileged to be doing. When I dedicated my life to becoming a full-time writer this is exactly what I’ve signed up for. The torture comes with the package and I embrace it. This novel is a story I’ve been developing for years. It’s the book I wanted to write my entire life and now I’m finally close to finishing it. Yes, the pressure is immense but writing is all I would ever want to do. If one day, for some reason, I couldn’t do this anymore my entire world would be shattered. My life would be in shambles. I’d feel like I have lost a part of myself, the biggest part. In fact, this is all speculation, I have no way of knowing how I would feel if one day I could no longer write and I dread even thinking about that. This brings me to the story of today’s record.

Though I haven’t had time to devote any attention to writing about it, music has naturally been my trusted companion through these last few weeks. One record, in particular, has been especially close to my heart. That record is Eberhard Weber’s Résumé.

As a storyteller, I’m always interested in the dynamic of a narrative. I see stories in life and I detect them in any type of art-form. Résumé has a particularly interesting narrative behind its creation, for it is a story of loss, transformation and adaptation.

Eberhard Weber is one of the most original bass players in Jazz. His instantly recognizable timbre and unique approach to playing the bass have made him a key figure in Manfred Eicher’s ECM sound. He has released thirteen solo records (excluding compilations) and has collaborated with Gary Burton, Kate Bush, Ralph Towner, Pat Metheny and perhaps most famously with Jan Garbarek. In 2007, while touring with Garbarek, Weber suffered a stroke, one that left him unable to ever play again. In a 2010 interview for German newspaper “Die Welt”, Weber talked openly about his condition:

There is no way I can really play as my left side is still partially debilitated. I tend to put it this way: It’s hardly probable that I will ever get back to my original state.

I can’t claim to know what Weber went through when he found out he could never again play the instrument he loves. But I do know the inspiring way in which the distinguished composer managed to cope with his loss. He found a way for his music to continue.

For 25 years I was on tour with Jan Garbarek. We always had a sound engineer with us who recorded every concert. I asked him to pull out my unaccompanied soli – Jan likes to have his musicians play on their own in the transitions between the individual pieces. All in all it’s twelve hours of material now, and I would really like to release a selection of it one day. Maybe I’d even play a couple of deep tones or drones with it. I’m really looking forward to this.

Two years after the interview, he released Résumé .The record consists of twelve tracks, all developed from his solos and named after the cities in which the particular concert had taken place. Its premise already gives the album a strong identity and a touching story. With the help of drummer Michael DiPasqua and the incomparable Jan Garbarek, Weber’s songs, driven by the deep, contemplative sound of his signature five-string double-bass, become more than just augmented solos: they become stories of their own.

The album starts with “Liezen” and continues with “Karslruhe”, two songs which, I feel, would have worked better fused together into a single, more coherent, opening track (my fixation with good opening songs is well-documented on The Music and Myth). Separately, “Liezen” is reduced to merely a short introduction and “Karlsruhe” is forgettable. Both songs do a decent job of establishing the mood of the album but fail to stand on their own as individual compositions. It might seem like I’m nitpicking  but I always put a great emphasis on the structure of a record and the narrative which results from the placement of the tracks.

“Heidenheim” picks up the pace a little bit with a more “traditional-sounding” bass solo from the man who is known to shun traditional bass solos. The song creates an interesting, lively (at least as far as Weber’s moody compositions go) monologue that is then turned into a fun dialogue when DiPasqua’s drums intervene. This is the moment when the record starts developing a life of its own.

“Santiago”” returns to Weber’s characteristic sound, a deeply atmospheric, meditative piece that flows into the memorable “Wolfsburg”, my favorite track off the album mainly because of the incredibly imaginative use of the haunting minimalist piano notes that are in perfect symbiosis with Weber’s masterful bass.

“Amsterdam” welcomes Garbarek’s unmistakable saxophone and accentuates the mesmerizing chemistry that these two musicians developed throughout decades of performing together. Garbarek’s sax is soft and dreamy where Weber’s bass is heavy and mysterious.

“Marburg” brings a welcomed shift in perspective in a track where the focus in solely on the exquisite bass-playing while “Tubingen” shifts between Weber’s dynamic, metallic vibration and ‘Garbarek’s soothing, familiar melody. The dramatic finish takes us to  “Bochum”, a track whose beginning reminds me of the sound of Miles Davis’ Aura (and that always scores points with me).  After the aura-like beginning it evolves into something entirely unique and interesting. DiPasqua’s subtle percussion works great on this track, making it one of the best on the album. “Bath” is another excellent composition which highlights the diversity of Weber’s playing while “Lazise” carries on in much the same way. The record closes with “Grenoble”, a song that starts powerfully and then gradually winds down, an interesting occurrence in an ECM record, where the closing tracks sometimes tend to be a bit passive. It provides well thought-out closure for Résumé and I can only hope that the twelve hours of solo material mr. Weber has gathered up will lead to more records such as this. Overall, in spite of a lackluster start and the fact that some tracks tend to end a bit abruptly (which is understandable but still undesirable), Résumé is a good record made great by what it represents: a testament to the versatility and undying power of creativity.