Some live albums just document certain concerts in order to fulfill record deal obligations and some capture the essence of a band's magic, something that could be sensed on studio recording but only completely reveals itself at live performances. There are groups that should be heard, but not necessarily seen. Both as a recording and performance entity, Anastasia is a powerful act with musical pieces that resemble an audible art gallery. Its music draws from several powerful sources with the artists steeped in rich musical traditions.
Throughout its three studio recordings, the trio's musical canvas expanded with every release to take in a timeless mix of different blends of musics, creating a mosaic of musical influences, both sacred and profane, both Western and Eastern. Connecting the aesthetics of artists such as Dead Can Dance and the ancient hues of traditional Macedonian music, as well as a wide range of electronic styles, the group's music is at once timeless and strikingly new. In its own words, Anastasia has tried to develop an authentic musical language based on the influences the musicians grew up with, and to avoid working with exhibits in an ethnological museum, but with a living tradition.
The word genre is a limiting term, when it comes to defining the richness of Anastasia's music. Even though it is rooted geographically to a specific place, it certainly crosses and transcends geographical and cultural barriers. There was a powerful statement in a magazine interview regarding their artistic aim where the musicians said that when listening to the Beatles you hear England at once, whereas when you listen to Anastasia they want you to hear Macedonia.
As a performance act, Anastasia puts on an almost theatrical performance to complement their musical excellence, a rich audio/visual set, with a sense of an transcendent experience, a wordless spirituality. This CD does a great deal to capture that experience and contain it on a recording. The music opens thunderously with "Circle Is Not Round," a track that used to open its concerts in 1994 when it broke big on the world scene with the success of its benchmark recording and film soundtrack, Before the Rain (Music Mac Distribution, 1994). It simply blasts with its straightforward melodies and propulsive drums enforced with fierce polyphonic vocal deliverances.
The band's mastery strikes a captivating balance between rooted Macedonian tradition and almost rootless modernity, in a singular and memorable track such as "Nine Iron Doors." It's a stunning, flawless performance. As with any film music, it might be assumed that much of its richness will presumably only reveal itself in the context of the film itself. But it's a testament to Anastasia's craft that, given the right circumstances, it can stand alone in a concert setting. "Voice" is a moving meditation, a hypnotic piece with Goran Trajkoski's voice beautifully gliding above layers of ambiances and rich musical tapestries.
Though this CD is comprised of tracks from different eras it certainly lends itself to becoming a cohesive and spellbinding whole, with the track "Bridge" appropriately blending with the ambience of "Voice." In the second half of the 1990's Anastasia experimented more with the electronic music of the day (without bowing to mainstream commercial music), marrying their style to a plethora of musical genres and the result of that was Nocturnal. (Third Ear Music, 1998). The band's visual approach on stage at that time changed and it resembled the stage act of Orbital or similar electronica artists. "Bridge," "Child" and "Thanksgiving Day" weave synth lines, hypnotic and intricate computer-generated beats, samples and sequencers, mixing all of that with processed acoustic instruments. The rhythms and sequences are heavier and have more of a punch.
The band's new direction saw it deliberately abandoning folk instruments, which were a trademark at one point, as well as most of the repertoire from the previous tour and what it kept was rearranged to fit the new direction the band was heading towards. The closing tracks "Passover" and "Kjanija Adžamija" (Kjania the Fumbler) saw stylistic rearrangements that altered the original numbers slightly. "Passover" spirals into a brutal dance floor charge, whereas the midsection is where the band lets its imagination really unfurl and glow. That part is a mosaic of myriad, sensuous intricacies and sound colours. "Kjania Adjamia" has some beautiful ambiances behind and it functions on several levels: behind that dark, unsettling music there are strange forces at work, slowly revealing a passageway to points unknown.
Anastasia Live 19942001 is another high point for a band laden with them. Like its studio efforts it is an embracing experience. The quality of the musicianship is beyond reproach, proving that the chemistry was not just in the studio. Taken into account the visual aspect the music suggests, it really is a pity there isn't any video document to accompany this. It presents only a snapshot or small snippet of what a powerful force the band were.
Tracks: Circle Is Not Round; Coming Back Home; Nine Iron Doors; Voice; Bridge; Child; Thanksgiving Day; Passover; Kjanija Adzamija.
Personnel: Zoran Spasovski: drums, percussions, keyboards, backing vocal; Goran Trajkoski: lead vocal, bagpipes, flute, keyboards; Zlatko Oridjanski: guitar, mandolin, flute, backing vocal, keyboards.
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