Evelyn Petrova — Living Water, written by Henry Lauer

It is always a little frustrating to review music originally intended to accompany dance or video: you miss out on something of the narrative force. Yet for once I find myself reviewing such a release and not feeling let down: Living Water is a unique, quirky, and energetic album even shorn of its visual counterpart.

The recording is live and flawless (which attests to vocalist/accordionist Evelyn Petrova’s prodigious skill) and taken from a one musician-one dancer theatre piece that Petrova created with dancer Tanya Khabarova called Taming of a Butterfly.

Petrova, despite being quite alone (musically at least), manages to create dynamic, flowing, and intricate music that somehow dives into the deeper parts of one’s consciousness.

Her playing is strongly folk-inflected, wild, anarchic, slurries of notes shattering across one’s hearing, playfully darting back and forth. She exploits the contrapuntal potential of the accordion deftly, coaxing the instrument into vivid conversations with itself. The songs dance from gentle tranquillity through to frenetic drama, and the dynamism of the songs and the album as a whole is captivating.

No less impressive are Petrova’s protean vocals – haunting and rousing folk singing, hissing, screaming, whispering, arguing (perhaps with Khabarova), and in general invoking a whirling carousel of characters, often several at once! At times her voice matches the rapid fire notes her accordion unleashes – a feat of great technical difficulty – and at other times her voice hangs rich and heavy with pathos.

Despite the multiplicity of moods and atmospheres threaded together on this release matters never become disjointed or artificial. Somehow this energetic torrent seamlessly segues from spirit to spirit, moment to moment, and one barely gets a chance to rest. Again, that Petrova maintains this pile-driving momentum for 50 minutes live, without dropping a single note, is truly impressive.

If experimentalism is to have a promising future then I am certain that Petrova is showing us the way – for all of the confounding moments on this release, the humour, playfulness, violation of convention, it never ceases to inspire and illuminate and invite us into further indulgences.

Perhaps her deep grasp of folk music is what enables her to set the experimental aspects of her music to such good use – there is a sense of context and tradition which, though dramatically metamorphosed, nevertheless provides a strong tap root for exotic branches to bloom.

I strongly recommend this daring, downright dizzying album. This release is a perfect demonstration of the magic that music can evoke in the hands of a master.

Evelina Petrova and Roberto Dani
Part of the project "Mirrors. Dedication to Andrey Tarkovsky"
Fornacepasquinuci gallery, Italy 2014

Two fragments
(Lullaby, Round-Dance)

Evelina Petrova and Alexander Balanesku. Video from Ethnomechanica world music festival 2009 in Saint-Petersburg.

Previous concerts

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