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coverpic flag Czech Republic - Luna Kafé - Full Moon 28 - 01/31/99

Iva Bittová
Iva Bittová
Nonesuch Records

In 1986, after ten years as a successful stage and movie actress, Iva Bittová co-founded, with her husband/drummer Pavel Fajt, a progressive rock group - Dunaj. Two albums and four years later they left the band in order to concentrate on Iva's solo career.

Bittová introduced her unique style of avant-garde vocalization accompanied by solo violin in 1991. It became a critical success almost instantly. This current Nonesuch recording draws from her self-titled debut, with three other tracks from the 1994 release, Ne, nehledej (Stop Searching).

The first cut, Before, which features intertwined East European melodies over a chugging rhythm; "The wheel of history will pause and the fast train will call at Kolodeje station", sets the stage for the rest of the album: A delicate balance between the voice, the violin and the lyrics, an open, ethereal sound, and a sparse arrangement. The lonely Grandfather; "...the clouds swell, growing heavier on the grey sky", is followed by the lyrical River of Milk; "As I fall asleep...I wade to the far bank, with white skirt held high through the River of Milk".

The emotional highlight come with The Little Calf. The lyrics seem harmless enough:

The wind laughs,
The wind in the grain.
It laughs and laughs and laughs,
It laughs all day long.
A whole day
and half a night.

So why this anguish, this atonal violin screeching, the screaming? And what's with the 'Little Calf' in the title, anyway?

Well, Bittová and Fajt's version is based on Dos Kelbl, an old Yiddish song which contains other verses in addition to the one used here. And those verses speak of a little calf being slaughtered in a field of grain, while the wind laughs and laughs and laughs...

I must hasten to add Bittová's style is much closer to Laurie Anderson, Stravinsky and Bartók than to Yoko Ono. Her musicianship is undeniable and the emotional impact is closely tied to the lyrics. At the same time this form of avant-garde performance art is not everyone's cup of tea. However the vision, the talent and the courage of Iva Bittová is remarkable.

Copyright © 1999 Ivan Sever e-mail address

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