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Slovenian guitarist Samo Šalamon has to be one of the most versatile and restlessly explorative musicians active today. His 2013 collaboration with The Slovene Philharmonic String Chamber Orchestra, Free Strings: Orchestrology sheds light on his superb compositional skills as he leads the ensemble in interpreting thirteen of his originals. An overall cinematic atmosphere permeates the record with each individual track containing a cohesive narrative that ranges from the expansive to the intimate.
The dramatic "Dutilleux" opens with the sweeping strings alternating with Šalamon and drummer Roberto Dani
's tense vamps. The resulting expectant mood ushers Šalamon's thick haunting chords, peppered with a delightfully subtle dissonance. His improvised lines coalesce into a passionate sonic swell that floods the tune with clever intrigue.
Dani's thrilling percussion is at the center of "Number of Circles." Around his thudding beats and gallops the ensemble lays down complex and hypnotic overlapping con arco and pizzicato patterns.
Elsewhere, Šalamon's angular spontaneity enhances the mystical sense of "Kei's Secret." The orchestra hesitantly glides along the main theme in a lilting, darkly hued melody.
In contrast, the symphonically intense "Meia Culpa" opens with mellifluous, floating violins over Dani and Šalamon's earthy rumble. The upper register instruments' silkier tone complements the richer more vivid sound of cellos and bass. The resulting intriguing ambience ends abruptly in silence that Dani's sparse beats punctuate. Out of the quiet Šalamon's lyrical strumming leads the group in an uplifting and lavish chant.
Equally theatrical is the solemn "Three Stories." The way Šalamon arranges cymbals, chordophones and hushed pauses evokes a baroque feel. Half way through violinist Janez Podlesek's romantic and melodic solo enters buoyed by Šalamon's resonant guitar and Dani's elegant and reserved brushes. Dani ushers in the main motif as the sublime piece concludes on a peaceful note.
Every new direction that Šalamon takes results in equally outstanding and exquisitely splendid music. This album is no exception. It is simultaneously innovative and charmingly accessible. In brief it satisfies both the mind and the soul.
Track Listing: Hebe; Seagulls in Maine; Three Stories; Dutilleux; White Herons on
Green Meadows; Miss Sarcasm; Rhapsody; Moonless; Number of Circles;
Fall Memories; Mea Culpa; Kei's Secret; Devil's Darling.
Personnel: Samo Salamon: guitar; Roberto Dani: drums; Janez Podlesek: solo
violin; Vera Belic: first violin; Monika Ivancev: first violin; Matic
Anzej: first violin; Oliver Dizdarevic Skrabar: second violin; Ziga
Cerar: second violin; Rado Steharnik: second violin; Bojan Erjavec:
second violin; Maja Rome: viola; Maja Babnik Ravnikar: viola; Tomaz
Malej: viola; Igor Skerjanec: cello; Klemen Hvala: cello; Petar
Brcarevic: double bass.