In less than two years, Poland’s Magic Carpathians Project has released five of the most fiercely independent and perversely beautiful full-length recordings you’ve probably never heard.
Led by a mountain forest conservationist and an eco-feminist scholar, whose academic focus is gender bias in indigenous cultures, you’d think the music on these discs would evoke only the color green, or sunny images of hippie bliss. You’d be wrong.
MCP’s Marek Styczynski and Anna Nacher — having swallowed whole the catalogs of Germany’s Faust and Popol Vuh, then inhaled the stoned lugubriousness of Japan’s Taj Mahal Travellers — are creating no less than a new template for progressive 21st century folk music.
On their newest record, Ethnocore ll: Nytu, Styczynski, Nacher and guest musicians take the listener on a freaky trip through Mother Earth. It is a bumpy ride: Equal parts free improvisation, convulsive psychedelia and ecstatic spirituality, Ethnocore ll: Nytu is not worldbeat lite.
Field recordings from India and Nepal — including a Hindu mantra accompanying the dead en route to burial in the Ganges River — are blended into breezy, moody miniature ragas powered by sitars, tablas and a variety of Styczynski’s brass and woodwind instruments.
At other times, Styczynski’s horns levitate above the drone, flare into spasms of holy terror and mad love, then settle into an ambient electronic mist. Nacher doesn’t sing, she wails, using an archaic, mythical Carpathian vocal technique called Nytu (a tradition similar to vocalizations heard from Mongolia to the Balkans. At her best, Nacher is sublime; other times she sounds dangerously close to Lisa Gerrard of the late Dead Can Dance).
To complete the set, seek out Ethnocore, released in 1999. That record’s wildest 10 minutes come on “One Mother,” a feral, Dionysian rave-up that seems as much influenced by the Birthday Party as by Tibetan Buddhist liturgy.
In 2000, MCP put out Ksiega Utopii (Book of Utopia) and Baltic Whisperings, and earlier this year released Denega. All are recommended, but available on Polish labels only. Styczynski was also once part of Atman, prog-rockers whose pastoral virtuosity could not anticipate the chaos and authority of the hot-blooded Magic Carpathians.
Crazy and essential, it is a project worth scouring the world for.
Find Ethnocore ll: Nytu at Neptune Records in Royal Oak. The entire Magic Carpathians Project catalog is available at Other Music in New York City. Order online at www.othermusic.com.
Send comments to [email protected].