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Aleksandar Pejovski: Um Zaum (2012)

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Aleksandar Pejovski: Um Zaum How we rate: our writers tend to review music they like within their preferred genres.

Can greatness be anonymous? In the case of composer/pianist Aleksandar Pejovski, and many before him, it certainly can. Unknown to the general public except for certain musicians' circles, he has been quietly releasing "Do It Yourself" (DIY) recordings of either contemporary classical music, filled with intriguing ambiances and sparkling ideas, or jazz compositions that manage to miss the public's radar. Um Zaum is a collectively improvised album recorded live at Macedonia's Channel 103 radio show, Ako Nikoj ne Sviri, hosted by Gjorgji Janevski. Fronted by Pejovski, this improvising unit creates a freewheeling and unpredictable blend of electronic and acoustic sounds that exist only at the margins of descriptive language.

The group members are rarefied experts in creating remarkably (and paradoxically) loud quiet music. Engaging in long and detailed conceptual ideas from a space and form called micro-minimalism. Ambient is one keyword for the moods and background that prevail here. Improvisation is another, and while it is completely improvised there isn't any atonal noise as there exists some order here. Divided into three long parts, Um Zaum feels like a soundtrack for an imaginary film. All three pieces have different feel and tempos. Slow burning is the operative phrase for "Part 1"—the first and longest track—as it moves at a glacier's pace. Starting from low-sounding ambiances, the group slowly shifts the direction through minimal piano, undercurrents of estranged textures and almost inaudible acoustic guitar. The space between Pejovski's notes makes the piece seem to be less forward-moving and pervasive, thus giving the impression that any moment they might vanish into air.

Composer Oliver Josifovski, of Ljubojna, addis his magic in the form of invention and context, providing unusual background sounds and textures with an instrument he invented, called the olistaklofoni, and a Tenorion, which uses glass to create sounds and employs a complex system for wiring and amplification. This is the very first recording where this instrument is used, as Josifovski has been using it only for rare live solo performances.

"Part 2" has more of an '80s ambient/electronic feel to it. Pejovski's electric keyboards and guitarist Vladimir Nikolov's timbres possess a lushness and diffuseness that is typical in pianist Harold Budd's work. It is nostalgically immersed in sadness and permeated with a feeling of desolation throughout. The sounds become more incidental, with the piano sounding more like chimes percolating out of the background drones and becoming resonating hooks.

"Part 3" finds the olistaklofoni even more upfront as a percussive instrument, adding more dynamics and tempo, while Pejovski adds Erik Satie-like piano strokes. The tempo shifts constantly, either picking up speed or toning down, but towards the end the pace accelerates, along with slippery electro beats and detached rhythmic patterns that bring it to a dynamic conclusion.

Um Zaum is a beautiful listening experience that avoids overproduction in exchange for the spontaneity created by a live session. It is also a reminder that when Pejovski blends melody and atmosphere with an experimental approach, he can be quietly magnificent.

Track Listing: Part 1; Part 2; Part 3.

Personnel: Aleksandar Pejovski: electronic keyboards, electronics; Vladimir Nikolov: guitar, mixing; Oliver Josifovski: olistaklofoni, tenorion.

Record Label: Mladinski Kulturen Centar Skopje


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