KINOVIA - Basilico - CDR - 11 tracks - Eye For Eye / Cynfeirdd - 2004

'Basilico' from the Serbian band Kinovia is the fourth instalment of Cynfeirdd's limited (141 copies) Eye For Eyes series dedicated to new and talented artists. Although Kinovia are virtually unknown out side the Balkans and Central Europe some of our regular readers may remember the warm welcome I gave to their 'live demo' some months back. The sad beauty of their music outshone the live recording conditions and it is some what fitting that this first release on Cynfeirdd is mainly comprised of live tracks recorded in various locations rounded off with a few older studio tracks recorded for a demo in 2000/01.

Using acoustic guitars, flute, violin, keyboards and percussions, Kinovia, lead by their tormented and charismatic leader Nikola, play what they call 'emotional Byzantine music'. I couldn't think of a more fitting description for this subtle blend of traditional Balkan influences and (neo)folk elements.
The songs structures are mainly based on the harmonies of traditional Serbian Orthodox Church music, which gives them a timeless, quasi-spiritual beauty impregnated by a natural sense of graveness. An impression reinforced by the peculiar vocals, which can be best described as long, melodious male vocal complaints. A technique inspired by the wordless Ison singing of ancient Byzantine tradition that expressed the absoluteness of God. A technique that is in phase with the religious inspiration of songs such as 'Otkrivenije arhangelovo' (Revelation of the Archangel), 'Vaskliknite Bogovi' (a traditional religious song from the 12th century), 'Lelej', Entfremdung' or 'Dorotea' and it's frenzied chaotic finale representing man's inner struggle against oblivion.
Those familiar with the stark beauty of Corsican polyphonies will already have an idea of the effects of this particular way of singing. The others will discover that, even if the lyrics are in Serbian, these ageless vocal melodies convey more heartrending sadness or melancholy than words could ever express... Something that reaches the deepest recesses of the soul, a direct expression of man's darkest torments.

Based on this description of their music, Kinovia would appear to be the most miserable, god-fearing people on earth. Yet, far from wallowing in clichéd gloom, their live performances seem to be full of passion and enthusiasm; a strangely uplifting experience. It is as if the band actually took pleasure in playing such sad, soul-rending music...

'Basilico', is a pleasant foretaste of the studio album that should be released later this year on Cynfeirdd and this collection of songs in a good way to discover the charms of this unique formation.

Ian C.
Spring 2004

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