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Friday, July 29, 2022

Taxi Consilium – Spiritual Car Wash (PMGJazz, 2022)

By Matty Bannond

Happiness and heartache share a very thin border. Sometimes, they overlap. The new album from Macedonian group Taxi Consilium is a case in point. The record vibrates with charm, irony and foot-waggling grooviness. But it stirs dark and fever-dreamy introspection too. With every listen, the line between humor and hurt is redrawn.

Taxi Consilium brings together Filip Bukrshliev on guitar, Andrea Mircheska on double bass, Dragan Teodosiev on percussion and Blagojche Tomevski on clarinets. They describe themselves as a “Macedonian jazz super-group of sleazy musical outcasts”. Spiritual Car Wash is their second album. How is it different to the previous record? “We wanted it to be slightly shorter,” Bukrshliev says.

Folky and funky

This tongue-in-cheek attitude surfaces often in the six-track album. The band is out to have fun, and they’re dead serious about it. The opening track, 'Mildly Felonious,' sets up an ice-cool bassline and rock-solid drumbeat as the platform for a dark, folky, funky riff. Solos leave wide-open gaps. Tomevski shouts garbled syllables through his bass clarinet.

“Most of it is improvised,” says composer Bukrshliev. “None of us lives in the same town, so we usually start by selecting compositions, then we have one or two rehearsals to establish a minimal guideline or gameplan... and we record.”

Sad and self-ironic 

'Nocturnal Flights and Exposed Flesh' grabs the border between humor and hurt, then swings it around like a lasso. Gorgeous guitar chords ring. A sparse bassline and stripped-down cymbals tease the track forward. The bass clarinet sounds a suave and seductive melody, then slips into a solo with low notes ridged and rumbling. The track is almost painfully pretty, but subtly sassy too. 

The group’s emotions feel a little closer to the surface on 'Beyond the Map of Language,' the final track. Another enchanting guitar opening meets shivering percussion. Another dreamy clarinet phrase carries the listener toward solos that unfold slowly over a bobbing rhythmic tide. The guitar takes a bluesy turn. The bass breathes warmth into the listener’s wide-open ear. It’s a beautiful and playful, sad and self-ironic track that feels lost and alone – just as everybody does, sometimes.

Universal sentiments

Spiritual Car Wash explores conflicting ideas and emotions, and finds sensitive ways to make them fit together. It’s an album with a glowing sense of fun and an exhilarating spirit of honesty. Taxi Consilium may be musical outcasts, but they have created a record that expresses universal sentiments. And it’s shorter than the previous album too.

“It’s a fun experience being in this quartet,” says Bukrshliev. “So we will have more of it. Concerts. Albums. Everything that we can manage.”

The album is available via streaming and as a digital download here.