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No New Abnormal

Tag: Jordan Kostov

Meet Jordan Kostov

Jordan Kostov isn’t pushing a new album at the moment, but he makes brilliant music. The Macedonian-born accordionist and composer is a big part of clarinet virtuoso Vasko Dukovski’s deliciously diverse Amniotic Fluid album reviewed here earlier this year, and the songs on Kostov’s Revebnation page are just as smart and eclectic. There’s over an hour worth of music there from throughout his career – haunting film pieces, accordion jazz, Balkan songs, and works for choir and orchestra that typically go on for eight minutes or more. He writes surreal, cerebral, uncanny, dark stuff.

Farina, swaying and pulsing with clattering percussion, alternates accordion and many clarinet voices into a hypnotically psychedelic, lively stew: wheat flour has never been so much fun. Salsa’s Truck, from Kostov’s 2010 album Salsa’s Journeys with his Ensemble Moderne, is a strange epic, its big choruses carried first by an oud and then a big choir, Kostov’s accordion moving between swirling, rapidfire righthand lines and rich, haunting washes of chords. The nine-minute In the Guest House works its way slowly from rainy day ambience to sheer horror.

Unpredictable as the jazzier stuff here is, Kostov still grounds it in the otherworldly chromatic roots of his native region. Cveta, a piece for accordion, bass, drums and brass alternates between a spacious, suspenseful dirge and a jaunty shuffle. Friendship features lots of wryly noisy improvisation from Kostov and a delicious stereo mix that separates his accordion’s many voicings.

There’s also a gorgeously lush, Middle Eastern-tinged, orchestrated theme for accordion, choir and percussion; a moody, windswept ballad with stark cello and bubbly clarinet; an apprehensive nocturne that sets accordion and trumpet over pillowy strings; an uneasy Balkan James Bond theme of sorts (Kostov gets a lot of film work); a tango-tinged piece for accordion and bassoon; a brief, bustling Keystone Kops theme that morphs into a surreal waltz; and a spacy miniature for solo accordion titled Univers. If we ever needed a reminder that some of the world’s most exciting music is coming out of the Balkans, this is it. Check out his bio page for all the projects he’s played with. And for what it’s worth, Reverbnation ranks Kostov and his ensembles as #2 among bands in Kavadarci, Macedonia, raising the intriguing question: who’s #1?

Magical Eastern European Sounds from Vasko Dukovski’s Amniotic Fluid

Vasko Dukovski is one of the world’s most highly sought-after clarinetists. He usually plays concert halls with orchestras and chamber ensembles. But the Macedonian-born reedman also has a passion for music from his native land, as well as Balkan and gypsy tunes. Earlier this year, he put out a deviously entertaining collection of droll folk-flavored themes under the name Amniotic Fluid, with eclectic percussionist Krume Stefanovski and powerhouse accordionist Jordan Kostov. It’s a pretty radical change from the classical and indie classical sounds that Dukovski is usually associated with, less of a display of sensational chops than imagination and wit.

The songs are a mix of moody vamps and less serious ones: the titles, like Sta-Me-Na and China Express Around the World, pretty much give them away. On the lighter side, there’s the carefree groove Svirci Iz Kavadarci (The Bulgarian in Honolulu), a sarcastic Jimmy Buffett lost-in-the-Balkans tune. There’s Salsa’s Journey, which takes a sassy ready-get-set-go riff and develops it into a psychedelic thicket of multitracked clarinet and accordion, capped off with a long, brightly sailing Dukovski solo. And Bace Don’t Kraj is no relation to the Cure: it’s a live trip-hop theme that builds to an allusive noir jazz atmosphere, Kostov blazing through a rapidfire staccato solo over an endless series of tricky rhythmic changes.

The cinematic Cabaret Bombay begins with foghorn clarinet and then morphs from a march into jazzy trip-hop, while Chobarium is more ambient and suspenseful. Vatashkata interchanges brooding gypsy-flavored interludes with a long, lively Macedonian dance. Slinky as it is, Sloga Sarajevo (Peace Sarajevo) has an inescapably apprehensive undercurrent. Muv Let- Melburnshka Tresenica mingles a series of rapidfire clusters with nimble, echoey vibraphone, while the trio turn the traditional Flying Bulgar into a jaunty tango.

But maybe in keeping with the intensity that defines Dukovski’s work, the two best songs on the album are its darkest. Veseliot Oktopod (Cheerful Octopus) starts out with a series of tongue-in-cheek, cartoonish motifs and then turns surprisingly plaintive: clearly, this octopus has issues. And the absolutely creepy, phantasmagorical carnival theme Be Careful Children packs more menace in its barely two minutes than most horror-movie soundtracks. All this goes to show what kind of magic can happen when you put three of the most original players in Eastern European music together and see what they come up with from basically just messing around.