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Nikola Kodjabashia's ...SOLITARY WALKER,
This review is from: Reveries Of The Solitary Walker (Audio CD)
You can go your own way -
All composers want to sound unique - but few manage to be as distinctive as Nikola Kodjabashia
John L Walters
Friday July 2, 2004
The Guardian / Friday review - On the edge
It's hard for a composer to establish a personal voice. You don't learn how to be original by listening to recordings, reading books, studying scores or attending lessons - though you need to do most of those things to become any good. And it's all too easy for young composers to sound like junior versions of their teachers.
So it's good to herald Nikola Kodjabashia's Reveries of the Solitary Walker (ReR Megacorp). Kodjabashia, in his 30s, is a Plymouth-based Macedonian composer with a signature that's nothing like the people he's studied with (the distinguished list includes Anatol Vieru and Birtwistle).
The music is performed by Project Z'lust Ensemble, a five-piece new-music group - also from Macedonia - with a similarly uncliched personality. The band is augmented by the composer's own keyboards, samplers and percussion; by guitars; and by specialists such as Sheazair, whose saz gives the track Sugarking a nudge in the world music direction.
Solitary Walker is a thoroughly enjoyable album, in which contemporary chamber music trysts with half a dozen styles without any sense of compromise or contrivance. The pieces are performed with great precision and care, yet with a flair for timbre and drama that makes them more appealing than, say, James MacMillan's, and more fun than Patrick Hawes's.
Crucially, Kodjabashia's work has "feel", an instinctive rhythmic logic that adds a shot of sensual pleasure to the intoxicating Eurasian influences on display - check out the sour-sweet hooks of Ave Tatho. An immediate example of his quirky virtuosity is Searching for Young Godot, in which an evocative, watery sample (James Joyce's voice) is interwoven with delicately performed ensemble writing.
Kodjabashia rarely shouts, but there's no lack of intensity or passion. The suite of nine pieces is a cycle of variations on a traditional Byzantine chant, a musical journey from the delicately traced piano theme of Cowboyskaya to the deliciously organic electronica of the closing PS. The 10th "bonus" track, Ludus Gothicus, is a sparky live performance for piano and violin, with a sequence of vigorous riffs and stirring melodies displaying a timbral and rhythmic flair that hints at Kodjabashia's range and potential. With theatre music work for the National and the Donmar and a big work commissioned by the Venice Music Biennale on the way, he's a name to watch.
And he's made one of the best, most consistent albums of the month - maybe of the year.