Is it necessary for jazz to be complex, challenging or boundaries busting in order to be considered "good"? Not necessarily. What is characteristic for guitarist and composer Sasho Popovski's seven compositions on Fallen Land is an emotional thread that runs through the mostly introspective, artfully executed performances and makes the tracks cohere.
While the title refers to Popovski's native country, Macedonia, and the sweeping changes that have been happening there since around 1990, with their devastating effects on every aspect of society, it seems he has poured all of his emotions into the blue tones that prevail on this record. Most of the compositions echo the work of guitarists such as Julian Lage, Bill Frisell or John Abercrombie. The luminous surf sound which is evident on the title track echoes the warm sound of Julian Lage and sets the tone for the album. Everything that follows seem as effortless as breathing.
On song after song, the musicians maintain a nice flow where they pass ideas seamlessly, anticipate and respond engagingly. They play as one. Most of the compositions have similar inner dynamics and evolve organically without any flash. Popovski isn't someone who plays plenty of notes but whatever he plays resonates deeply with his luminous tone. Not everything is Americana or folkish-influenced by the stellar musicians named above. "Elgon Sky" is a homage to desert blues bands such as Tinariwen or Tamikrest. There are plenty of rhythmically charged sprints on this tune, with the swirling guitar melodies bolstered by delightful exchanges and turnarounds.
The last two tracks, "Spring Is Near" and "We Have Met," are slow, moody and dreamy, with a hazy ambiance where the music sets listeners adrift on a soundscape painted with tonal colors that are somehow both warm and melancholic.
At moments languid, and consistently evocative throughout, Fallen Land makes a great companion for these treacherous and often lonely pandemic times.
Fallen Land; On Mountain Top; Kom Dipsan; Elgon Sky; Choban, Spring is Near; We Have Met
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