Released April 21, 2023
- Kris Wawrzak: basses, sampling, programming, vocals
- Artur Szolc: drums and percussion
- Robert Szrednicki: guitars, keyboards, synths, various instruments
Krzysztof Drabikowski; Inga Habiba; Lunatic Soul
Sebastian Aleksandrowicz; Anna Drabikowska; Michał Górczyński; Mariusz Kumala; Dyba Lach; Mariusz Mielczarek; Nadhir; Maria Oldak; Tomasz Popkrzywiński; Kamil Popławski; Mariusz Rodziewicz; Igor Szeligowski; Krzysztof Szmytke.
- Furta 9. Chors
- Świętowit 10. Zachód
- Wschód 11. Kupałą
- Swaróg 12. Południe
- Mokosz 13. Łada
- Północ 14. Weles
- Perun 15. Rozstaje
- Trzygław 16. Rod
Music Inspired by Slavs is the fourth offering from the Music Inspired By… trio, who have intermittently been releasing largely instrumental thematic albums since about 1999. The last one, 2016’s Music Inspired by Alchemy, is reviewed here.
As the title suggests, the core inspiration for this album are the various deities of the Slavic pantheon. It is meant to be a musical imagining of a distant Slavic past, before conquest, science, and the imposition of a foreign religion, and the release is accompanied by lavish and detailed notes and artwork. There are eleven tracks related to the gods, organized somewhat geographically, interspersed with short, directional interludes to guide us. And so we pass through “Furta” (The Gate) into this lost world.
Slavs is a beautiful album to listen to. Sonically rich and textural, it is replete with traditional stringed instruments (balalaika, psaltery, dulcimer, even a hurdy-gurdy) and percussion, tied together with layers of sweeping synths, keyboards, drums, and evocative vocal work from different guests. And experience tells: like the previous Inspired By… albums, Slavs is largely instrumental but unlike previous work the musicians take all this to the next level — it is an immersive and captivating release, packed with atmosphere. This is an album the guys should be proud of.
While there are key themes and ideas that link the songs together and make the whole album a more-or-less cohesive unit, some of the individual tracks bear special mention.
After the introductory “Furta” we jump right into the upbeat “Świętowit”, rhythmic and dense with percussion, making great use of the dulcimer; Inga Habiba’s haunting vocals give us a taste of what is to follow on the rest of the album.
I think it is fair to say that “Swaróg”, Lunatic Soul’s hypnotically beautiful contribution, has been the main selling point for the album. Mariusz Duda’s vocals are dark and mixed far back, sounding quite distinct from his Riverside work — it is clear why this piece is credited to Lunatic Soul because the lush, eastern-flavoured atmosphere of that project and this album are in a very similar vein. The song must have been one of the first written — the vocal melody line winds its way through several other songs on the album. Unfortunately the song itself feels incomplete — it just seems to end, without any real resolution.
The vocal theme from “Śwaróg” slides right into the next track, “Mokosz”, but with strings instead of voice. This is one of the more interesting tracks on the album in the way it plays with different musical directions: it starts out lush and orchestral then turns hard and folky, and then completely changes character again, finishing with a contemplative piano and bass duet.
The strongest song on the album is “Perun”, a dark and bass-driven folk anthem, sparkling with dulcimer, with the chanting vocals of Krzysztof Drabikowski and Inga Habiba playing off each other, evoking a mysterious and ancient past. This song perfectly summarizes the whole essence of the album.
Music Inspired by Slavs is compelling right out of the gate, and yet somehow manages to get better the more it is played. The Inspired By… guys truly were inspired to make an album that has surpassed all the ones before. It is not a perfect album: occasionally a song will end too soon, and it seems somewhat front-loaded — all the best tracks and certainly all the main ideas occur in the first half and that does make the last few tracks feel a bit repetitious. However, these are rather minor sins given the quality of the music. This album is going to rate high when it comes time to assess the year’s musical output, and it is well-deserved.