Fake Orchestra: Made In China (2009)
If you pulled out a map of the western hemisphere, and drew lines tracing the cross-cultural pathways that compose Slovenian band Fake Orchestra's music, the map would end up resembling something an inky spider had been traversing. Its European and Americas areas, in particular, would resemble a complex diagram of highways, arterial routes and secondary roads. Like the British band Orqestra Mahatma, whose Stay Cool (Babel, 2005) inhabits similarly wide ranging cultural territory, Fake Orchestra has an admirable disregard for international and genre boundaries.
Unlike the smaller Mahatma, Fake is a seven-piece (which also unlike Mahatma includes a vocalist), augmented by as many guests, so its range of textures is broad. Made In China (Chinese music is entirely absent from the album)which follows Fake Life (Goga, 2001) and Fake World (Goga, 2004)makes the most of the possibilities. The panoply of diversities includes Slovenian pop (which reflects the closeness of Italy, Slovenia's neighbor to the west) and Slovenian folk (which doesn't), samba, jazz (from New Orleans to the avant-garde), West African highlife and a little rock. The 13 tracks are mostly arrangements of Slovenian folk songs, plus Pharoah Sander's "The Creator Has A Master Plan," the traditional West African folk tune "Jarabi," and the original "Good Luck With The Duck!," a techno groove in 7/8 (which is "uncommon," as the liner notes put it with understatement, "in that genre").
Fake was formed in 1997 by guitarist Igor Leonardi, a sometime performing partner of multi-instrumentalist and world jazz pioneer, Don Cherry. Alongside Leonardiwho plays guitar, ukelele, gaita and balafonthe core septet also features the singer Ana Vipotnik, the tenor (and soprano) saxophonist Primos Fleischman, and the violinist Jelena Zdrale. Guest musicians bring trumpet, flute and a host of percussion to the party.
The mood is mostly upbeat, with the notable exceptions of "Jeseni" (which means "in autumn"), an arrangement of a poem by the poet Cene Vipotnik (Ana's grandfather), and "Vora Bije" ("the clock bell tolls"), a bittersweet folk song from the 1930s, when many young Slovenians emigrated to America. Fleischman solos tenderly on soprano on both tracks, and adds some turbulent tenor to the second. His roughhewn voice on the bigger horn is also the focus of "Je Prav Zvita Zver" ("the fox is a really foxy beast") and, of course, "The Creator Has A Master Plan."
Though upbeat, the prevailing ambiance of Made In China is burnished, layered and prettily melodic, not at all like the unbuttoned barndance vibe of the YouTube clip below. The clip isn't representative of the album, but it's fun, and funabove allis what Fake Orchestra is about.
Track Listing: Lisicka; Je Prav Zvita Zver; Jarabi; Ne Cakaj Na Maj; Ne Prizigaj Luci V Temi; The Creator Has A Master Plan; Megua; Jesini; Ne De Mi Vec Rasla; Vora Bije; O Sneha Ljubljena 5; O Sneha Ljubljena 7; Good Luck With The Duck!.
Personnel: Ana Vipotnik: vocals; Jelena Zdrale: violin, violin, backing vocals; Primos Fleischman: saxophones; Igor Leonardi: guitar, ukelele, gaita, balafon; Nino De Gleria: bass; Blaz Celarec: percussion; Aljosa Jeric: drums. Guests: Bostjan Gombac: flute, vocals, whistling; Peter Lovsin: vocals; David Jarh: trumpet, flugelhorn; Issiaka Sanu: djembe, dun-dun, vocals; Dino Murtezani: kaval; Matija Leonardi: toy trumpet, vocals; Mitja Vrhovnik Smrekar: pandeiro; Kresimir Tomec: bass.