Releases

Širom • A Universe that Roasts Blossoms for a Horse

Release Date: 30/08/2019
Format: CD/LP+DL/DL
Cat-No: GBCD/LP 079

01. A Washed out Boy Taking Fossils from a Frog Sack (2:43)
02. Sleight of Hand with a Melting Key (15:16)
03. A Pulse Expels Its Brothers and Sisters (9:26)
04. Low Probability of a Hug (7:50)
05. Same as the One She Hardly Remembered (8:28)

 

Slovenian ‘imaginary folk’ instrumental trio return with a kaleidoscopic third album. Handmade and global instrumentation meets fearless sound exploration

There’s a sequence in Memoryscapes, a lovely short film, in which Širom set about fashioning music from a pile of pots, pans, saucepan lids and empty cans of supermarket lager on the kitchen table. It’s the band in microcosm: cracked, insistent beats, rhythm chasing rhythm, a deadly serious playfulness, and the intimacy of close friendship undercut by the sense of emergency of a flashing torch. Širom are all about the head and the hand, and the dark that always pushes against the light.

We’re around another kitchen table now, and the three members of the band – Ana Kravanja, Samo Kutin and Iztok Koren, in any order you like for this is a collective endeavour – are gently fending off any question that attempts to reduce their music to type. It’s not the first time they’ve had to suffer a conversation like this since their highly acclaimed second record, I Can Be A Clay Snapper, became one of tak:til’s first releases two years ago. ‘Imaginary folk’ is Samo’s preferred description, but the word ‘preferred’ is doing some heavy lifting here. You get the sense that the band don’t much care for labels. ‘It’s also good not to know everything,’ he says. ‘We don’t want to play something that sounds like it already exists.’ (Although fans of psych, outernational field recordings, folk horror, Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society, Rileyesque minimalism or mutant country might find a home, however fleeting, in Širom’s world.)

The band are more than happy, however, to bust two myths that seem to have grown up in the last couple of years. First, this is not Slovenian traditional (or traditional Slovenian) music. It might be produced from and by each of the three landscapes in which the band were raised – the Karst, the hills of Tolmin, the eastern plains of Prekmurje – but unpicking what came from where is an impossible endeavour, as Iztok points out: ‘We know the impact of the landscapes that have influenced us could be measured, but practically it’s impossible because there are too many variables. Nevertheless, it is important that we ask ourselves this question, because it is like a compass – it gives you direction, but it doesn’t say what you will find at the end.’

That quest, which starts with every song, and feels renewed each time it’s played and listened to, leads us to the second misconception: that Širom are an improvisational band. For sure, improvisation is an indispensable part of the initial songwriting process; but it’s an expression of their collective manner of working rather than any musical statement per se. These are precisely crafted songs, each one months in the making, in preparation for the time when the mics are switched on and they can finally achieve what they need to without resorting to overdubs of any kind. Keen-eared listeners will hear a continuation of the last song on Clay Snapper in the first song of the new record: a nod, perhaps, to the fact that they began work on the new record immediately after the last.

But whatever has gone into the music, from the band’s home landscapes to their previous and in some cases still current musical projects (classical, hardcore, flatlands post-rock), Širom sound like no one else – and that’s the point: ‘When we make music, it’s like making a new world,’ says Samo. The world of the new record – A Universe that Roasts Blossoms for a Horse – is indeed subtly different to that of the last: the viola still teases and tugs at the percussion (or is it the other way round?) and the banjo still periodically tries to break free and set up on its own, but there’s a glimpse of electricity (that rarest of beasts in the Širom catalogue) in ‘A Pulse Expels Its Brothers and Sisters’, courtesy of Samo’s homemade tampura brač, more vocals, albeit as unsettling as ever, and a new sense of spaces being prised open. What remains is that strange and unmistakeable Širom groove, which exists to be broken down (as Ana suggests), and the dark joy that runs through all their work.

 

Širom I Can Be a Clay Snapper

Release Date: September 8th, 2017
Format: CD/LP/DL
Cat-No: GBCD/LP 051

01. Just About Awake (Malodane budnost)
02. Boats, Biding, Beware! (Čolni, čakam, čúvaj!)
03. Everything I Sow Is Fatal (Vseje usodno)
04. Maestro Kneading Screams of Joy (Maestro mane vriskanje)
05. Ten Words (Deset besed)

Hailing from Slovenia, Širom play vividly textured and (mostly) imagined, instrumental folk musics. Handmade and global instrumentation meets fearless sound exploration.

The 3rd release from Glitterbeat’s new label imprint: tak:til

Slovenia’s miniature, but incredibly diverse landscapes, echo through its distinctive cultural, historic and linguistic traits. When thinking about Širom’s geographical trajectories, as well as their musical ebb and flow, one has to consider the abundance of water that can be found in the individual regions where they come from. Cascading mountain stream lilt, lazy lowland river meandering and the mysteriously vanishing waters of Karst are most certainly inscribed into Samo Kutin’s, Iztok Koren’s and Ana Kravanja’s childhood memories and subsequently, their remarkable musical art.

“In the process of making the second album we decided to shoot a film,” Samo Kutin explains. “The idea was to visit the places we come from, the ones that are more difficult to access, to see how environment in which we grew up in and the memories it awakes, affect our musical improvisation. The film called Memoryscapes is a kind of a document of this experiment, but the experiment itself certainly influenced the creation of the second album.”

Watching the trio experiment and jam on ribab, frame drums, balafons, percussions and various other unusual or homemade instruments in the sinkhole Bukovnik in Karst, on the snowy mountain top of Kal above the village Čadrg and in bright yellow turnip rape fields in Prekmurje, the soundscapes they create symbolically depict the essence of Širom. The search for idiosyncratic sound where no one else is looking. A passion for exploring diverse sonic qualities as well as examining the constantly changing relations between the material (everything that produces sound), the environment, human experience and musical intervention.

But the journey towards I Can Be a Clay Snapper began with a rather different chord. Before plunging into improvisational and complex compositional musical waters, Ana and Samo cite punk rock as the starting point of their music ventures. While Ana was busy playing bass guitar in a punk band in Ljubljana, Samo, along with his twin brother Jani, formed numerous local line-ups including the punkish Štrudls; the more acoustic Migowc and Čarangi; while eventually morphing into the experimental collective Salamandra Salamandra, which still enjoys a somewhat legendary status amongst Slovenian music aficionados.

“As a schoolboy I experienced a strange feeling of shame when listening to music, so I just didn’t. Later, when I indulged myself in music, I realized that this was because it was a very powerful medium for me,” admits Iztok, who cut his teeth in noise, metal and post rock bands such as ŠKM Banda and Hexenbrutal.

Samo and Ana first met at the improvisational music workshops, conducted by the leading Slovenian “improv-man” Tomaž Grom and Japanese improvisational percussionist Seijiro Murayama respectively. Other shared influences include classical minimalism and global musics. The couple eventually formed the kalimba-based duo Najoua.

Iztok lent an ear, liked what he heard and invited Najoua to join his band on a European tour, during which time they decided that the three of them should collaborate. But at the beginning it was not a smooth ride, as Samo recalls: “It was not easy to create music that would satisfy all three of us, but that’s kind of crucial, since it is this intersection of different personalities that created Širom. It is through conflict that new ideas emerge.”

The band’s emergent sound oscillates between a wide array of acoustic folk sounds and contemporary post rock meditations, often drifting from improvisation to structured composition and then back. It is described by the members themselves as imaginary folk or folk from a parallel universe. “Our music creates emotional landscapes. When I was still painting every day (Ana holds a degree in painting) I was trying to paint my dreams but that didn’t work out,” Ana remembers. “I discovered that by using an abstract image I can draw nearer to what I felt in my dreams. Our music is based on a similar principle.”

According to Samo, the guiding concepts of their music-making are: “To play on acoustic instruments, to work with repetition and a common sound. Each of us can play a simple thing, but the overall result is that a complex thing comes to life. The quality of sound depends on the combination of the instruments and that’s why we modify and prepare instruments or create our own.”

As an avid sound-seeker, Samo began to develop an interest in building instruments out of everyday objects like drawers, computer boxes and other “junk” (as he lovingly calls his creations) as well as re-tooling the ones he brought back from his globetrotting adventures that have included personal encounters with local musicians in India, Morocco, Mali, Greece and elsewhere.

Ana, who also nurtures a very personal relationship with music paraphernalia, adds: “There is a different attitude at play if you make an instrument yourself. It already tells you a story. If you buy it, it takes longer to get to know it, to tame it.”

In the little village of Lesno Brdo, tucked in the rolling hills ten kilometers south of Ljubljana, Ana and Samo organize music performances and festivals on a farm they rent, and divide their time between music making and vegetable farming. A close connection with nature is also important to Iztok who now resides in the capital city. “It’s a sort of a contact with the past but it also has its own life in the present.”

Fearlessly textured sonic landscapes – both linked to and unbound by – the past and present, geography and tradition, the real and imagined. Hypnotic, otherworldly and epic.

Širom’s music moves like the restless waters of their homeland. No matter how hushed or slow it may seem, it is never ever standing still.

 

Širom are:
Iztok Koren – banjo, three string banjo, bass drum, percussion, chimes, balafon, various objects
Ana Kravanja – violin, viola, ribab, cünbüs, balafon, ngoma drum, mizmar, various objects, voice
Samo Kutin – lyre, balafon, one string bass, frame drums, brač, gongoma, mizmar, various objects, voice

All compositions written and arranged by Širom.
Recorded without overdubbing, Lesno Brdo, Slovenia, February 2017.

painting Marko Jakše
photo Nada Žgank
translation Gregor Zamuda
design Eva Kosel
recorded by Iztok Zupan
mixed by Chris Eckman
mastered by Gregor Zemljič

siromband.si
sirom.band@gmail.com

 

Širom

 

Slovenian ‘imaginary folk’ instrumental trio return with a kaleidoscopic third album. Handmade and global instrumentation meets fearless sound exploration.

‘I feel many musicians fear seeing a melody fall apart, but I find it enjoyable. It is only then that it can turn into something new’
– Ana Kravanja

‘We don’t want to play something that sounds like it already exists’
– Samo Kutin

There’s a sequence in Memoryscapes, a lovely short film, in which Širom set about fashioning music from a pile of pots, pans, saucepan lids and empty cans of supermarket lager on the kitchen table. It’s the band in microcosm: cracked, insistent beats, rhythm chasing rhythm, a deadly serious playfulness, and the intimacy of close friendship undercut by the sense of emergency of a flashing torch. Širom are all about the head and the hand, and the dark that always pushes against the light.

We’re around another kitchen table now, and the three members of the band – Ana Kravanja, Samo Kutin and Iztok Koren, in any order you like for this is a collective endeavour – are gently fending off any question that attempts to reduce their music to type. It’s not the first time they’ve had to suffer a conversation like this since their highly acclaimed second record, I Can Be A Clay Snapper, became one of tak:til’s first releases two years ago. ‘Imaginary folk’ is Samo’s preferred description, but the word ‘preferred’ is doing some heavy lifting here. You get the sense that the band don’t much care for labels. ‘It’s also good not to know everything,’ he says. ‘We don’t want to play something that sounds like it already exists.’ (Although fans of psych, outernational field recordings, folk horror, Don Cherry’s Organic Music Society, Rileyesque minimalism or mutant country might find a home, however fleeting, in Širom’s world.)

The band are more than happy, however, to bust two myths that seem to have grown up in the last couple of years. First, this is not Slovenian traditional (or traditional Slovenian) music. It might be produced from and by each of the three landscapes in which the band were raised – the Karst, the hills of Tolmin, the eastern plains of Prekmurje – but unpicking what came from where is an impossible endeavour, as Iztok points out: ‘We know the impact of the landscapes that have influenced us could be measured, but practically it’s impossible because there are too many variables. Nevertheless, it is important that we ask ourselves this question, because it is like a compass – it gives you direction, but it doesn’t say what you will find at the end.’

That quest, which starts with every song, and feels renewed each time it’s played and listened to, leads us to the second misconception: that Širom are an improvisational band. For sure, improvisation is an indispensable part of the initial songwriting process; but it’s an expression of their collective manner of working rather than any musical statement per se. These are precisely crafted songs, each one months in the making, in preparation for the time when the mics are switched on and they can finally achieve what they need to without resorting to overdubs of any kind. Keen-eared listeners will hear a continuation of the last song on Clay Snapper in the first song of the new record: a nod, perhaps, to the fact that they began work on the new record immediately after the last.

But whatever has gone into the music, from the band’s home landscapes to their previous and in some cases still current musical projects (classical, hardcore, flatlands post-rock), Širom sound like no one else – and that’s the point: ‘When we make music, it’s like making a new world,’ says Samo. The world of the new record – A Universe that Roasts Blossoms for a Horse – is indeed subtly different to that of the last: the viola still teases and tugs at the percussion (or is it the other way round?) and the banjo still periodically tries to break free and set up on its own, but there’s a glimpse of electricity (that rarest of beasts in the Širom catalogue) in ‘A Pulse Expels Its Brothers and Sisters’, courtesy of Samo’s homemade tampura brač, more vocals, albeit as unsettling as ever, and a new sense of spaces being prised open. What remains is that strange and unmistakeable Širom groove, which exists to be broken down (as Ana suggests), and the dark joy that runs through all their work.

 

Homepage: http://siromband.si