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Thursday, June 15, 2017

Biliana Voutchkova - Modus of Raw (Evil Rabbit, 2016) ****

By Eyal Hareuveni

Biliana Voutchkova is a classically-trained violinist-vocalist-composer-free-improviser, who describes beautifully her art in a short poem:

…my house is this huge wide
land of music,
with many rooms and many
open spaces,
with comforting cozy beds of
notes to rest on,
with cushy pillows of
silence all over,
with slow showers of sounds to
soak my body in,
with boiling tea pots at dark
corners seducing me
with their lovely melodies to sip from
their complex, but simple pleasure,
with loooo-oo-ong corridors of everlasting drowns
where entering eternity
comes natural...
there, in that house, i live my
exuberant life...

Voutchkova comes from a family of Bulgarian musicians, spent 14 years studying in the United States, where she expanded her interests in contemporary music and improvisation, and now resides in Berlin. She performs new works by contemporary composers for violin, often written specially for her, and works with performances work, reaching into the realm of dance and movements. She has collaborated with many innovative ensembles as Ensemble Modern, Solistenensemble Kaleidoskop, Zeitkratzer and the composers-improvisers Splitter Orchestra, co-founded her dance-music groups GRAPESHADE and OSM (Open Sound & Movement collective) and performs regularly with clarinet player Michael Thieke (the duo released Already There, Flexion records, 2013).

For many years Voutchkova refused to release any of her improvisations, “believing that the live experience is so strong and vivid that it can never be recreated by a recording”. But on the summer of 2015 she was invited to a residency in the Swiss alps, where she enjoyed enough free time to think about her work and how she would like to continue. Being in nature all day also contributed to her decision to channel this creative energy and inspiration into a recording of playing solo constantly for about three hours, later edited down to the Modus of Raw.

Each of eight pieces suggests distinct ideas and sonic territory, all focused on her constant investigation on expanding the sonic possibilities of the violin while using an array of commanding, extended techniques, with her expressive voice. Voutchkova's art is totally personal, uncompromising, embraces chaos and weird, raw sounds and immediately gravitates for the most wildest terrains, but on the same time it is totally captivating with its great sense of invention and poetic playfulness. She moves freely from a disturbing drone, explored on the title-piece, to the twisted, layered melodies of the tensed and dramatic “Songs of Anxiety”, to a hyperactive blending of colliding bowing techniques on “Memory imprints” and sketching abstract sounds on exotic-sounding “Chaos & Beauty”.

The last two extended pieces offer more varied improvised strategies. “Gratitudes and sorrows” borrows techniques and ideas from the rich legacy of Norwegian hardanger fiddle, but juggles with the overtones and overlapping sounds in a complete different manner. Voutchkova fuses these sounds into a series of intense, strange-sounding yet equally-tempting shamanic dances. “Poschiavo medley”, after the Swiss Alpine town where she resided, weaves gently the local sounds of the city and nearby nature into a playful soundscpae where Voutchkova’s violin and voice attempt to assimilate with the winds, bird calls, church bells, patiently coloring and morphing the peaceful scenery with imaginative, new sounds and songs.