“The simple fact is that I love brass instruments and percussions,” says Anna Dantchev about the configuration of instruments on her new work.
Say It painstakingly places and moves sounds about to express a mood, a feeling, a memory, like the pieces on a chessboard, locked in harmony instead of battle. Dantchev’s compositions, her vocals, and arrangements combine to craft an audio memoire using intriguing instrumentation, that creates a sometimes solemn and martial sound defined by the deep brass of sousaphone, tuba and trombone. Dantchev’s voice, too, is brassy and round with a slight bell-ringing vibrato. Percussion—the battery includes a drum kit, an assortment of individual drums and small percussion instruments, and Dantchev’s tupan, a traditional Bulgarian, two-headed drum —complements the brass to create an unusual, yet successful coupling that achieves a big, though tempered, sound. Key to taming that brashness is the frequent intercession of guitar and vibraphone.
At first blush, you’d think to classify her music under the broad and floppy umbrella of jazz, but significant strains of traditional music, mostly Bulgarian, serve to steer it into another catchall bin, “world fusion.”
The lyrics of the album’s ten songs are written in the first person, and are based on Dantchev’s personal experience colored by her divided culture. She is Bulgarian, but was raised in Finland, where she currently lives. One can hear echoes of Le Mystère des Voix Bulgares, for example, in the occasional yips that punctuate her vocals.
A soft tinkling, as of a cowbell, opens “My Love,” then clops in and out throughout the song, giving it a bucolic air. The bell is overlain by a masculine, softly droning voice, and the lyric evokes a child’s life, rich from her immersion in nature, made magical by a visionary dove. The girl, a woman now, speaks to her love, inviting them to be enchanted, too, by the dove. Dantchev’s vocal, much of it hummed, is deep and earnest, saved from over-emotion, and complemented by an elegiac guitar interlude.
“Boy Oh Boy” is also a narrative. Dantchev relies on the brass and her vocals to elicit support to remain strong and upright after having been “down on the ground.” The beat is heavier here, the guitar chords more assertive, more like ‘70s rock ‘n roll to this ear, and the trombone, as it fortifies her song with resilience, becomes her surrogate, boosting her strength.
Foot falling and hand clapping, recalling the folk dances of her roots, set the tone for “Oh My Happy Song.” The folkloric is fed into classic rock rhythms that then get classily jazzy. Here, the drums rule, traps and all, and the trombone provides the base line plus a number of quirky licks. A whole host of disparate pleasures give her joy, that's expressed variously, including in an evocative segment where she scats over rollicking drums. There’s a satisfying dynamic here, too, an interweaving of tough brass and the sweetness of the vibes.
"The Leaves” imagines the balletic flight of leaves from their branches, suggested by Dantchev’s wafting vocables; the song draws a metaphor for the impending death of a dear, older person—the artist’s grandmother, we learn from the notes--while a spare, brief guitar interlude suggests a peaceful leave-taking. Cymbals colliding and vibes intimating the final chimes of a church bell introduce portent and drama, two emotions inevitably felt towards the end of a life. As the last song on the album, with a title that suggests a double meaning, “Leaves” deals with life’s most dramatic moments, begging interpretations of Dantchev’s thoughts and cares. In fact, each of Say It’s “sonic sceneries,” gives us ample tableaux for thought. - Carolina Amoruso
Find the artists online
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