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LAZIK - Far Fetched

LAZIK - Far Fetched
Private Label LZ0342

Pronounced "Latseek", this Cork-based band brings together musicians from many countries who share an interest in Balkan and Middle Eastern music. It's challenging stuff, and you have to be a virtuoso player to keep up, but Lazik handle these undulating rhythms and melodies as if they were born to it. Which they weren't. Most of the members come from Northern Europe - France, the Netherlands, Belgium and Germany. Fiddler Yvonne Leahy and guitarist Barry O'Donovan put the Cork in Lazik's multinational cocktail. Despite their lack of Semitic or Slavic roots, this diverse group manages to sound like a vintage gypsy band, travelling the Silk Road from Seville to Samarkand.

I first heard Lazik at the Festival of World Cultures in Ireland last summer. With a colourful stage presence, some sinuous flesh, and a demented clarinettist whose contortions threatened to dislodge his hat, they put on quite a show. The live act is even better than this debut recording, but Far Fetched is still very impressive. Starting with a couple of Breton tunes, Lazik are soon into the 11/8 rhythm of Gankino Horo, familiar from Andy Irvine's forays into Bulgarian music. Flute, fiddle and mandolin hark back to the Planxty sound. Katerino Mome is a Bulgarian song with a very different feel, a simpler beat with clarinet and guitar behind the gypsy violins. North African influences are apparent in the Serbian Shotta and the Turkish Hijah Dolab, while the trance-like Istanbul is actually a Norwegian tune and The Penknife Murderer is a lovely modern Swedish composition - bodhrán players beware!
Lazik have covered most corners of Europe here. Brittany supplies Gwendal, a well-known melody led by flute and mandolin. Waves Of Rush is by fiddler Aidan O'Rourke from north west Scotland. There's even a Greek number. Most of the other instrumentals are from Bulgaria or Romania, swirling dance tunes like Hora De La Bolentin or Chetvorno Horo. The five songs - one in Bulgarian, two in Yiddish and two in French, all with convincing pronunciation - are arranged for two female voices, and range from the cabaret number Opa Cupa to the renaissance allegory Marions Le Roses. Far Fetched finishes with Freddy's Reel, a nod to the Irish tradition. There are a couple of points where Lazik's performance flags slightly, and I'd have liked to hear more of their wild clarinettist, but this is a good solid debut album. If you're looking for more details, Myspace knows these guys as Lazikmuzik.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 89 of The Living Tradition magazine.