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Monday, February 20, 2006

Canadian culture export!

Winnipeg vocalist extraordinaire, Alexis Kochan, recently shared some very exciting news! Her Paris to Kyiv CDs have just been released in Poland and parts of western Europe (on the Koka label), and will soon be released in Ukraine and Russia.


Now why don't the hand-wringing Canadian elites get happy about a cultural export like that?

Let's hope Alexis sells tons of CDs to help finance her musical explorations and in the process inspire other Canadian artists (Ukrainian or otherwise) to follow in her footsteps.

For reviews of her CDs go to or Alexis' web site. Here's a recent one by American journalist Peggy Latkovich (Rootsworld, Dirty Linen).

Paris to Kyiv
Olesia Records (

This release is a departure from 2000's Prairie Nights and Peacock Feathers. While that work applied an experimental brushstroke to folk music, this one starts from a basis of experimentation. Though Alexis Kochan and company use the same building blocks as in previous releases - voices, violins, bandura, bass, guitar, and soft percussion - the elements are used sparingly, in an almost devotional fashion. The deep bells interspersed between tracks and the slow, processional tempo of many of the pieces add to the sense of sacredness. Sparsely textured and delicately shaded, these contemplative pieces lay on the ear like soft silk. Alan Schroeder contributes overtone vocals on two tracks, furthering the meditative ambience. andura player Julian Kytasty's quote of Gershwin's "Summertime" is not at all out of place on "Dream," a gentle lullaby. They do kick it up a little on tracks such as "Oj U Lisi," a Spanish-tinged number with vocals by Rodrigo Muñoz. Two sets of "Variations on a Three-Note Dance," one folky and one jazzy, show the possibilities inherent in minimal materials. "Trans-Siberian Blues," a bandura and guitar duet, uses plucky ostinatos and behind-the-bridge strumming in a gentle meeting of cultures. The release is aptly titled, as many of the tracks sound like fragments of musical ideas stitched together into a cohesive whole. It's evocative music that is not easily categorized, but will unfortunately probably be put in "new age" or "world fusion" bins. It's really neither, but rather stands on its own as a unique expression. Wherever it ends up, it's definitely worth seeking out. - Peggy Latkovich

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