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KATALENA

Prog Folk • Slovenia


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Katalena biography
Katalena are a Slovene modern folk group which arose from a 2001 workshop aimed at resurrecting traditional Slovakian folk tunes and injecting them with modern trappings of style, energy and improvisational delivery.

Taking the workshop on the road, the band first appeared as a live act in December 2001 at the New Rock Festival in Ljubljana, Slovenia. This was followed by a string of live appearances as well as nominations for two Slovenian music awards for innovation and live performance that year. The band's first album '(Z)Godbe' was released the following year, and includes three live performances from the band's workshop project. Following another year of touring the band released a second studio album consisting of modern interpretations of traditional Slovene folk songs in 2004 ('Babje leto'), and a third in 2006 ('Kmečka ohcet'). All three albums have received both critical and commercial acclaim in their native land.

Katalena have appeared on BBC radio, Slovenian national television, and at a number of European music festivals. In October 2004 the band joined a small number of prominent Slovenian musical acts who have headlined in Cankarjev dom, the largest cultural centre in Slovenia, appearing there to a sold-out crowd.

The band's music is marked by upbeat and lively rhythms, traditional and modern instrumentation including flute, cello, mandolin, clarinet, and various keyboards.

Slovenian ethnomusicologist Katarina Juvan describes the band as follows: "Combining best of the Slovene traditional music, carefully selected from the archives, songbooks and old vinyl records with solid rock rhythms, funky groove and enviable arranging skills it creates a unique post-folk rock style that presents the music legacy of Slovenia's regions in an utterly new light. Fused with dynamic and invigorating electrical instruments, which caress the enchanting singing, it is transformed on the stage into a dance and sound performance that mesmerises even the most musically pampered ears. Katalena is the most inspirational voice of the 21st century Slovene folk music soundtrack".

Katalena deserve a place on ProgArchives for their loving and innovative interpretations of traditional Slovenian folk music and their ability to translate these ethnic classics in an appealing fashion to national and international audiences.

Discography

(Z)godbe (2002)
Babje leto (2004)
Kmečka ohcet (2006)

Katalena official website

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Babje leto (SI/YU)Babje leto (SI/YU)
Dallas
Audio CD$41.85 (used)

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KATALENA discography


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KATALENA top albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

3.00 | 3 ratings
(Z)godbe
2002
3.83 | 5 ratings
Babje leto
2004
2.10 | 2 ratings
Kmečka ohcet
2006
3.96 | 8 ratings
Cvik cvak!
2008
4.00 | 1 ratings
Noč čarovnic
2011

KATALENA Live Albums (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

KATALENA Videos (DVD, Blu-ray, VHS etc)

KATALENA Boxset & Compilations (CD, LP, MC, SACD, DVD-A, Digital Media Download)

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KATALENA Reviews


Showing last 10 reviews only
 Cvik cvak! by KATALENA album cover Studio Album, 2008
3.96 | 8 ratings

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Cvik cvak!
Katalena Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars I've loved Katalena's sound as well as their story since I first heard of the band several years ago. After beginning as a temporary music workshop project, the band have developed over the past decade into a full-fledged group with a fairly deep repertoire and a tight sound matured over several studio albums and a healthy live performance schedule. Their fourth studio album shows the band at something of a creative peak after an ambitious but somewhat uneven concept record with the 2006 release 'Kmečka ohcet'.

'Cvik cvak!' opens with "Inferno" which sounds a bit like their first record with folksy flute and what sounds like a plucky xylophone, but quickly launches into a rich blast of guitar, mandolin, strings and percussion befitting the song's title. Musically this is a great song including some great instrumental woodwind solos, with the one drawback being the group-chant vocals that don't quite live up to the grand layer of sound laid down behind them. As with the rest of their catalog the mood is quite upbeat though, and the song provides a great mood setting opening for the rest of the record.

"Ćanďnawa", like most of their second album, is rhythmic and at times almost hypnotic with piano and percussion leaning more toward the band's earlier jazz-inspired sound while the woodwinds and acoustic strings are firmly set in folk territory. "Banërinä" is similar though slower-paced and more ballad-like, and here Vesna Zornik's vocals and the clarinet playing of Bostjan Gombač are quite seductive.

After the brief interlude of "Misko korosko" that mood continues with "Zapďskul nu zatrumbatol" which also has a decidedly cool-jazz feel and irregular percussive rhythm along with more of the omnipresent woodwinds. Once again the group vocals prove to be a tad bit distracting at times, but Ms. Zornik's voice dominates and offsets any shortcomings of the rest of the band's singing.

"Ta solbaska" and "Za isi svit" are two of the longer tunes on the album and eat up nearly a quarter of its length, with the latter being one of the more distinctive ballads in the band's catalog and imbued with some absolutely gorgeous strings, flute, piano and string- bending guitar work. A truly lovely piece that surely inspires slow-dancing and nose-to- nose eye-gazing among lovers at their live shows.

The mood picks up a bit after that, including the toe-tapping "Ta aldowska" with persistent maracas, lots of synthesized keyboards and a pulsating dance beat. This is the sound that drew me to these guys in the beginning, a delicious blend of traditional folk themes and modern musical sensibilities. I'm not sure how popular they are in their native Slovenia, but I could certainly imagine this one on any Top-40 FM dance-radio station's rotation throughout Europe and in the States.

The highlight of the album is the nine-minute dance/jazz/techno melding titled "Lisďca", a hodge-podge of fat clarinet, soaring electric guitar and subtle keyboards framed by a blend of violin and mandolin set to a decidedly danceable rhythm that manages to border on drone without quite getting there. This may be the best example yet of the band's ability to merge the traditional with modern musical concepts and studio technology. And here all the vocals manage to work well together. Definitely 'Best of' material.

The band hints at possible future direction with the closing "Inferno 25" which is sort of a dance-remix version of the opening track that includes spoken-word vocals backed by the same slightly-annoying male group vocals that the first track featured. Not my favorite song by any stretch, but certainly one that shows the band's creative reach and potential for popular appeal.

In all I think this is probably the strongest overall effort from the band to-date, and while it doesn't quite fit any of my definitions of either progressive or folk music it manages to cover a lot of ground that at least skirts those territories even if the music isn't firmly grounded in any of them. The most noticeable trend is the movement away from a heavily jazz-leaning sound, although those influences are certainly not gone by any means. Overall I think this one just makes the bar as a four-star effort, and one I'd highly recommend to folk and jazz fans who aren't too attached to purely traditional music of those genres.

peace

 Kmečka ohcet by KATALENA album cover Studio Album, 2006
2.10 | 2 ratings

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Kmečka ohcet
Katalena Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

2 stars Katalena’s third album is a slight departure for the band. Like the first two, this is a collection of reinterpreted traditional Slovenian folk and folk-inspired tunes. The new twist here is that the songs are string together into a sort of theme album, with the theme being love, marriage and coming of age woven from a series of separate vignettes. While stories of lovers and lost love are familiar topics for folk music, and music in general really, this is an unusual album because it presents concepts of love from a third-party standpoint.

The first track is an old Solvenian child’s lullaby that here tells of two young and yearning lovers who are fated to never meet. Musically this is an unremarkable tune, although once again the band’s clarinetist distinguishes himself.

“Dajte, dajte” is an eight-minute instrumental that isn’t folk at all, but rather some tasty jazz with a soaring clarinet arrangement and persistent, ominous piano that could have sounded just about as at-home on many post-rock albums I’ve heard over the past few years; while “Lucija” offers an acoustic beat and a one of the band’s more intense compositions. It tells of a woman being mocked because she is aging but unmarried, and in danger of becoming a spinster.

“Dajte, dajte” is a traditional Slovenian tune that is meant to be sung when a bride approaches her alter. Its message is to the parents and elders, exhorting them to make way for the young who are now emerging as adults themselves. The arrangement is playful and the sound effects reinforce the bridal celebration theme, but as a progressive work this is one of the band’s weaker offerings. “Oj, Božime” is almost too introspective, a picture of a young bride wishing her father and brothers farewell. A poignant sentiment, but the music is quite bland and doesn’t add much to the album.

I suppose one would have to be Slovenian to fully appreciate “Prstan’, but it seems to be a story of the lengths of devotion some wives in that country’s history had to go in devotion to their marriages. Again this is strongly accented by clarinet, with the keyboards and percussion leaning heavily into improvisational jazz territory.

“Le pijmo ga” is a guitar-driven rocker, the first I’ve heard from this band. This is a “Let’s Party!” tune, probably meant to be sung at the wedding reception. Polka-like dance music interspersed with playful guitar power chords. “Dajte, dajte” is also a party tune, but more intense and slightly negative, almost as if this represents the surliness that some people lapse into when they get a tad bit too much ‘partying’ in them. Odd tunes, both decent but not folk or prog.

The instrumental “Pleši, pleši, črni voz” is actually quite a bit like “Dajte, dajte”, so in this case it probably should have had some variety built in. And the closing “Nede mi več rasla” contains a proverb about decisions in life often being made not based on love or emotions, but on practicality and need. Really depressing for me, maybe not so much so for others.

This is probably the weakest of the three Katalena albums. Still decent music, and I like the idea of the band attempting to bring cohesion to the body of work by giving it an overall loose theme; but musically this is an underachieving work compared to what the band has proven they are capable of. I’m not sure if they were rushed in the studio, lost interest, or got too wrapped up in themes and lyrics and gave too little attention to the music. Maybe a little of all three. In any case this is a two star album, and while I don’t think it is a bad album, I wouldn’t really recommend it to anyone except those who are inclined to be completionists and may already have one or both of the band’s other recordings.

peace

 Babje leto by KATALENA album cover Studio Album, 2004
3.83 | 5 ratings

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Babje leto
Katalena Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

4 stars After the surprising success of the Bela krajina experiment led the musicians involved to take their show on the road and resulted in the formation of Katalena, the band returned to the studio in the spring of 2004 to record their second studio album. Reportedly completed in just three days, the band put together remakes and interpretive arrangements of eleven Slovenian folk standards. So from a purist standpoint it might be a stretch to call this progressive folk as much as it is just really well-done and enthusiastic cover tunes. But I’ve managed to locate a handful of traditional recordings of some of these classics, and it is pretty obvious the band has taken a liberal approach to the idea of “reinterpreting” them.

Except for the somber opening instrumental, these are all quite upbeat, jazz/fusion variations on what were originally mostly Slavic folk tunes with traditional dance beats and probably very little embellishment. Katalena take care to add layers of appealing percussion, horns, and electric guitar that breathe a new life into the old tunes. “Široko more i Dunaj” is a great example with its peppy clarinet and danceable pop tempo; “Bija je fantičec mlad” is similar in most respects except that here the band adds another layer for flute and mandolin and embellishes the refrains with electric piano. I can see where this would be a very entertaining band to witness live – their energy is very apparent and infectious.

There are some modern influences that stand out from time to time as well, including the very neo-prog and lumbering guitar and rhythm on “Aj, zelena je vsa gora”; and the cool jazz Kenny G-like instrumental “Bom pa ruteč orau” with its clarinet managing to establish its own tempo that complements the percussion behind it. Going back just a little further to identify probable is Kate Bush, whose new-age-meets-classical “The Sensual World” may have made an impression on a young Vesna Zornik, whose vocals here are reminiscent of Bush’s post-mommyhood works.

Not everything works well here. “Tam na laški gori’ conjures up a picture of a burlesque show with an old, grey ethnic backing band and an aging, worn-out lounge singer wearing too much pancaked makeup and a frumpy sequined dress while mixing gin and bitter tears on stage. Maybe that’s the point, who knows… I don’t speak Slovenian so have no idea what this song is about. Could be I hit the nail on the head.

And the plucky electric guitar and scale-driven synth keyboards on “Pobeleo pole z ovcama” remind me quite a bit of the eighties band Holly & the Italians. And that’s not a good thing.

But the ten minute free-form jazz movement “Dež” that closes the album with its orgy of clarinet and experimental keyboards is a solid recovery from the couple of minor filler tracks, and in the end I’m left thinking this is a more even and more mature recording than the band’s debut. A solid four star effort in my mind, despite the “Pobeleo pole z ovcama” which I conveniently ignore when playing this record. That still leaves ten tracks and that’s enough for most albums. Recommended to prog folk fans who aren’t afraid of new things. Also recommended to open-minded jazz/fusion fans for the interesting percussion and the outstanding clarinet work.

peace

 (Z)godbe by KATALENA album cover Studio Album, 2002
3.00 | 3 ratings

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(Z)godbe
Katalena Prog Folk

Review by ClemofNazareth
Special Collaborator Prog Folk Researcher

3 stars It’s actually little hard to tell if these guys should be considered folk or not. On the down side they appear to be quite popular in parts of Europe, particularly in their native Slovenia. They are also fronted by a young, attractive and fashion-conscious women whose vocal inflections would suit her just as well on-stage next to Fergie or some ethnic hip-hop band. The band’s tunes also tend to get your foot tapping, and might even get you up and dancing in a weak moment. And I’m not talking polka either.

On the up side though the band has a penchant for reinterpreting Slovenian folk standards in a new and innovative way that appears to be winning them a growing following, and to be creating a renewed interest in the art form.

This debut came as a result of a 2001 workshop whose purpose was to resurrect some older Slovenian folk tunes and rework them with modern instrumentation and fresh passion in their messages and tales. That proved successful enough a venture that the participants took their show on the road, culminating in this studio recording.

The overriding mood is quite upbeat, improvisational, and warm. There is heavy use of keyboards, brass (clarinet mostly), and lots of percussion, leading to an inevitable jazz sensibility to the music. The vocals of Vesna Zornik are deep, passionate and reflective, drawing in the listener and complementing the keyboards and flights of clarinet that abound on every track.

I can’t say that any track stands out particularly, although the lengthy and jazz-diva dominated “Zrelo je žito” is the best representation of what the band would evolve to over their next two albums. The two parts of “Istrska” are full of wonderfully stilted piano and improvisational percussion; and the instrumental “Po cesti mi gresta študenta dva” builds slowly to a polka-like happy dirge that would make for a great listening experience in a smoky jazz club, or just as appropriate for a summer evening in the park.

Like other bands of the former Yugoslavia it can be difficult to make sense of some of this music because of the language barrier, but the fresh approach by this young band of talented musicians is well worth a listen or two for those who are a bit adventurous and looking for something new. A very high three stars, and well recommended to both prog folk and modern jazz fans.

peace

Thanks to ClemofNazareth for the artist addition.

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