Record Review: Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs – Demoni (2012)

Less jovial – more organic. Kottarashky returns with a real band and more of his quirky folk samples

Kottarashky Rain Dogs Demoni

Genre: Balkan / Blues / Jazz

Region: Sofia, Bulgaria

Artists’ Website: Kottarashky on Facebook

Label: Asphalt Tango

Amidst the Balkan craze sweeping the whole Europe from side to side, Kottarashky’s 2009 debut ‘Opa Hey!’ was destined to become successful and I have to admit that it was one of the most refreshing albums of that time. Three years have passed since then but the Balkan sound is still persisting as fused with different styles and transmuting in different forms itself.

Kottarashky, aka Nicola Gruev, did not bother to repeat himself with another Balkan beat album with folk samples. Since he prefers more organic sounds he gathered some friends, musicians from Sofia (The Rain Dogs), and now he is back with his sophomore album.

As enjoyable this attempt is there are also some trade-offs: now the sound is warmer, acoustic, more ‘mature’ sensible to melodic textures and instrumentation but has left behind some of the sparkle and dance joviality of his first album. That is to say that there are different elements to appreciate between these two records.

‘Demoni’ demonstrates a sound which is difficult to categorise and it is not our point to do so anyway. There are certainly elements from blues, jazz and Bulgarian folk propelled by some mannered rhythmic patterns that provide that extra dynamism.

Kottarashky still goes around Bulgaria for his favourite “sample-harvesting” – capturing voices of traditional elders and melodies on folk instruments – albeit this time he is assisted by the creative forces of Hristos Hadziganchev (guitar), Aleksandar Dobrev (clarinet), Yordan Geshakov (bass) and Atanas Popov (drums).

There are quite some notable moments throughout the album like the album’s opener “Aman Aman’, the chilling vintage funky-soul of ‘Doctore’, the uplifting rhythmic ‘Pancho Days’, the Bulgarian women singing on the bluesy ‘Slavyanka Blues’, the Manu Chao-inspired ska folk of ‘Trans 5’ and the ethno-jazz-rock mash-up of ‘Blatoto’.

Kottarashky and The Rain Dogs built an album that fluently crosses categories unfolding new territories for folk-inspired modern music. There are moments where the sound is a bit ‘empty’ and plodding missing the early oomph – but compensating on good compositions and a wealth of ideas. Although some of the dance-ability was left behind in the process, the album might appeal on the other hand to a more musically adept, mature audience.

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Check out more artists from Bulgaria:

Zafayah meets Dub Caravan – Out Loud EP (2012)

Check out more artists from the Balkans:

Boban i Marko Markovic Orkestar – Golden Horns (2012)
Martha Mavroidi – traditional music in playful and cosmopolitan forms
Balkan Dub? Freegan Kolektiva talks with Vanya O from Radikal Dub Kolektiv / Dubble
Psarantonis – epitome of deep-rooted tradition and genuine innovation

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