Wednesday, April 25, 2018

The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices' "BooCheeMish"

Back in the "world music"-obsessed mid-'80s, Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares -- a Swiss musicologist's recording of Bulgarian folk songs, sung by the Bulgarian State Radio and Television Female Voice Choir -- made a splash on the Western pop scene when reissued by the 4AD label, home to the similarly otherworldly Cocteau Twins and Dead Can Dance. (Frank Zappa was a fan of those recordings, as were CSN&Y and the Grateful Dead.) Now, The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices is releasing its first album in over two decades, with help from Dead Can Dance's Lisa Gerrard on four of the 12 tracks.

Unlike the folkloric music the choir previously recorded, most of the material on BooCheeMish was newly written by composer Peter Dundakov. Gerrard's contributions were co-written with her regular collaborator Jules Maxwell. Besides the voices, you'll also hear traditional Bulgarian instruments, an array of percussion from various cultures, and stringed instruments which range from acoustic guitar and bass to a string quartet. Bulgarian beatbox artist SkilleR also contributes to four tracks. These added elements don't detract from the mood the voices create; rather, they reinforce the universality of the choir's sound.

Choir director Dora Hristova points out that the Bulgarian vocal tradition requires strong breath to project the voice across fields and valleys. The sound these women make while moving those big columns of air manages to sound both ancient and modern, earthy and haunting. Perhaps it is particularly appropriate, at this moment in history, to hear strong women's voices.

Two songs featuring Gerrard ("Pora Sotunda" and "Ganka") are available digitally now. The full album will drop May 25 in a variety of formats: CD, LP, limited edition SACD, limited edition double CD with 60-page art book, and limited edition box set including art book, LP, SACD, and four LP-size art prints.


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