Pigeonholing, a probable manifestation of modern music marketing. Local contemporary electronic musicians Alvik have managed to defy this term and redefine their brand of sensible and engaging popular expression. Their comparison to Nu-Jazz contemporaries Lamb and Zero 7 are unmistakable. Imagine: Equal parts smoky back room speak-easy meets sampled electro turtabalism. Confused? Good.
Alvik is comprised of seven uniquely trained musicians. Four Czechs, Two Norwegians and a female American lead vocalist Anya Stewart. The concept is a novel one. Put your stand up double bass center stage flanked by lead flute. Immerse in heartfelt vocals, additional staccato percussion and electronics and bake till ready. Presto!
Ringleader and lead producer Misan Pajdiak met Anya in 2000 where they shared a flat with the Norway expats and jammed frequently. Anya had only limited experience singing punk back in her hometown of Silver Springs, Washington. Her diamond-in-the rough talent, well evident to Misan, needed to be mined. After recruiting the additional members and honing their live set, they started playing locally and eventually released the delectable “Breathing Geometry” in April of last year on Czech label Quazi Delict. The band then stormed the states playing NYC’s Knitting factory, sweeping the eastern seaboard with gigs in Boston, Philly, Baltimore and Massachusetts to warm receptions and modest critical praise.
To successfully fuse classical instruments with jazz in an electronic framework is a daunting task. The band succeeds largely in its mastery of this fusion. The sensitivity to high production values along with band synergy contributes to a well polished product and tight live set. The CD packaging itself is a work of art seemingly handcraft with eco friendly gatefold and maple leaf graphics. The homecoming concert that followed at Akropolis welcomed the members back with a fanatical 600 fans packed into the main hall. Their large following is testament to the unique message and performance the band consistently delivers. They recently followed their LP with a series of remixes from no fewer than eleven red-hot local producers including Juanita Juarez, Touchwood, Igraczech, Close Encounter, and Öggg. The album is widely available throughout the Czech Republic distributed by Panther and also through their cerebrally designed home page: www.alvik.cz
The band’s name comes from an obscure metro station in Norway’s capital Oslo. Additional accolades include an ALMA award for best live performance of 2004 and a successful US tour with serious interest from U.K label Woodland Records that is eager to distribute “Geometry” to the British audience later this year. The band plans a second release in 2005 with a hopeful return to the states this fall. A live web based “stream cast” has been planned with accomplished Jazz legend and collaborator Emil Viklicky in the very near future. Most members have other “day” jobs, which vary from sound engineering to choir direction with Anya pursuing editing and photography work in the film industry.
If you have not seen Alvik yet, do so. If you are interested in some refreshing locally produced music with mastery of execution with a soulful spirit then find this release. You won’t be disappointed.
Tim’s top 5 Czech bands:
2) Ohm Square
3) Ecstasy of Saint Theresa Ecstasy of Saint Theresa
4) Moimir Papalescu & the Nihilists
5) Bow Wave
Hear Tim Otis plays Alvik on High Fidelity Fridays, 8-10 p.m. on Radio 1, 91.9 FM.