Published by: Millenium Records
Available at: most music stores
JAZZ, ethno, hip-hop, trip-hop? The pace of Short Stories averages at -hop speed, occasionally slowing to ambient or reaching a drum and bass cadence. Meanwhile, Oskar Rózsa's relaxed bouncing bass lines encourage listeners to take it easy as they are served a selection of styles, and to wonder whether the Barflies' favourite hangout is located in Paris, the US, or somewhere in central Asia.
The opening track, Poľana, is translated as "meadow" and comes complete with chirping birds. Slowly cresting cymbals and flute flow into track two, Morning Scent, with the kind of mellow bass, slow atmospheric keyboard, and moaning trumpet you might expect from Erik Truffaz. To complete the picture is a guest MC's encouragement, in French, to relax and listen and "oooui..." You know, that sort of thing.
It is hard to know whether or not the group takes its album seriously, as it oscillates between such "get down" lyrics and dramatic, meditative, sonic journeys. The album also occasionally has a lounge feel that could be dubious or entertaining, depending on your taste or just your mood.
Electronic touches and programming are used freely, sometimes generating good atmosphere. At other moments, however, the wooshes, tinkling, and echoes feel superficial.
The loops show more delicacy and refinement, especially in the opening to track four, Hit the Zero. Here they are unobtrusive, but with enough hook to pull the listener in to delicate piano, Ľubor "Umelec" Priehradník's long emotive trumpeting, and then a disco cum old-school hip-hop bass line and drumbeat and guest rapping in English.
The feel of eastern musical influence is tucked away throughout the album, though it comes to the fore only occasionally, such as on An-swer, the last track. More than the others, this song takes a decidedly cinematic direction, developing a narrative of strong moods and split with conspicuous noises and decisive tempo changes. The CD booklet illustrates each of the tracks with a two-page painting, deepening the stories that the songs tell.
Good musicianship from all three members, of whom drummer Robert Rist is the third, and the special guests - especially violinist Stano Palúch - as well as the varied and sometimes surprising textures of the songs ultimately make this album an interesting listen.
16. Feb 2004 at 0:00 | Eric Smillie