This is the ORIGINAL, glorious release of these lovely, pure
lambrettadreams | Washington, DC | 11/29/2006
(5 out of 5 stars)
"The previous reviewer meant well to shield unknowing buyers from a crock (see From Bulgaria with Love: The Pop Album by "Le Mystere des Voix Bulgares," which I think the reviewer mistakenly thought this was). This is, in fact, the initial release of what is now known as Volume I that is referred to (compare the song titles--they are the same). This was released on LP in the early to mid-1980s by record label 4AD (then home to goth precursors extraordinaire Bauhaus and the similarly enchanting singing of Elizabeth Fraser in the Cocteau Twins). Indeed, the notes on the back of the album cover state that the producer (I assume) Ivo Watts-Russell was introduced to this music "via a third generation tape (at least!) by Peter Murphy" (frontman of Bauhaus prior to going solo).
It is clear from his notes (and those of the director of the project doing the original recordings, Marcel Cellier, included in the insert of the album) that the recordings were done over a fifteen-year period from a capella choirs of women selected by Sofia officials from country girls known for their non-vibrato "open" voices, specifically to create a sound one could not gain from trained singers of the Academy of Music. However, it is not clear at all exactly when this was recorded. There are no dates in the notes at all, or even a reference to a period other than that "the arrangements are, in Bulgarian terms, contemporary." Still, the latest it would be is the 1970-1985 time period preceding this release. Thus there is no relation to this recording by the present, official state choir, which was only assembled (and undergoes changes) after this release reached some cult status and was re-released by another label.
This music is absolutely mesmerizing. "Pritouritze Planinata" brings tears to my eyes every time. The melding of untrained yet intuitive voices and historical themes of fields and villages with formal arrangement and practiced, learned coaching in Sofia conjures one of the most amazing recordings I have ever heard.
Project Director Marcel Cellier himself says it best: "It is with stunning facility that these girls ascend and go beyond the usual limits of the vocal discipline advocated by our musical academies. What they retain comes from their background: melisma, fiorittura and trill, as well as a fierce predilection for the second as a diaponic interval. Whenever these women congregate they naturally break into song, using the second-full, half, quarter and even eighth of a tone, sometimes tremolo--with a disconcerting accuracy. One of the voices sustains the fundamental note--like the drone-pipe on a bagpipe--while the other voices weave their own melody over this basic sound, always trying to get as close to it as possible. The outcome of it all often results in a very mordent atonality, in total contrast with our traditional western harmonic system. I must say that it used to tickle my ear in the headphones while I did my first recordings! But with practice--for performer and listener--the dissonance becomes consonant. A work of rare intricacy. ... Beauty of perfection! Perfection of beauty! It is between these two exclamation that lies ... the mystery of the Bulgarian voices." (I believe that is the initial use that led to the name of the album, and later, "the group.")
I do not own Volume II or the accompanying Ritual of the boxed set (I'm buying it now), but the cover of Vol. 2 sold separately says Marcel Cellier on it, and the snippets on Amazon sound like the same project, whereas the cover of Ritual sold separately says its the "Bulgarian State Television Female Voices Choir," so I think that's just a more recent grouping of the same style of music. I have no idea if that's even the same as the Bulgarian Womens Choir also listed as the same "group," but I doubt it.
For those who want just a single album taste, or who want the ORIGINAL release, or are collectors of 4AD or the aforementioned 1980s bands, get this version with the beautiful 4AD-style cover art with the white lace shoe. NOW. Nobody would ever consider it a waste of their money. Not even close. (Unless you already know you're going to want more and want to get the boxed set that is cheaper than buying the aforementioned three discs separately.)"