Fe les Egesz
The sixth album for Berlin-based players of "Hungarian speed-folk" the Transsylvanians, Fe les Egesz ("Half and Whole") is a double-disc affair. As such, Fe les Egesz addresses the problems and decisions that many bands who work within the folk-rock genre are prone to: when do you pump up the volume, and when do you give yourself over to your quieter side? Over the course of their career, the Transsylvanians have played a bracing combination of extraordinarily fast folk-punkrock, which is showcased on the first CD of this set; the quieter, reflective Transsylvanians take over the second. All singing is done in Hungarian (and no English lyric translations are provided). The group's members have remained fairly constant, with the energetic violin player Tiborcz Andras being the guiding light and arranger of the band's material. Fe les Egesz finds the Transsylvanians welcoming in their new female singer Nagy Isabel (also on contrabass), replacing former female singer and double-bass player Szilvana. Nagy is featured consistently over both sets, and her voice is really forceful; she is more than capable of reaching the upper register of the songs, and often in a sweeter manner than her predecessor.
Strangely enough, I did not find the first disc ("for stagedivers") as memorable as the second ("for slowfolkers"). In my estimation, the band's 1999 (Jo!) and 2000 (Denever) CDs are their masterworks, with the enthusiasm of their fast songs proving to be devastating. Here, the tunes - while certainly amped up - seem to be a bit too polished; perhaps something was lost in the production? Nonetheless, the twenty minute closing track of CD 1, "Istvan es Koppany," veers crazily between tempos, makes a stab at musical theater (at one point including a bit of liturgy!), but comes off as something new (I'll suggest the term 'prog-punk').
The second CD is just wonderful, and where the real magic happens. As in the past, the band interprets Bartok ("Roman tancok", and "Tulipan" on CD 1) with great success; I would not mind seeing an entire CD of re-assembled Bartok by the Transsylvanians. There is also a Rimski-Korsakow tune, "Hindu song from 'Sadko'," beautifully rendered. Plus, we are treated to two versions (the second in English) of the infamous 'Hungarian suicide song' "Gloomy Sunday," by Seress Rezso: there are many stories of people's bodies being found with the sheetmusic to this song by their side! András Tiborcz' own "A Tisza," with a beautiful keyboard line from Andreas Hirche, is a clear highlight, the dynamics building effortlessly in the Transsylvanian's enchanting style. - Lee Blackstone
Listen to "Gloomy Sunday"
The band's web site: www.transsylvanians.de
CD available from cdRoots