Irfan was formed in 2001 when a group of like-minded individuals got together and combined their talents to form this excellent group. The members originally included Denitza Seraphimova (vocals, tambourine), Ivaylo Petrov (programming, keyboards, acoustic guitar, oud, saz, percussion), Kalin Yordanov (vocals, daf, tapan, percussion), Kiril Bakardjiev (programming, keyboard, santoor, saz, percussion), Shtoni Koukoudev (ghaida, tapan, percussion) and Vesselin Mitev (vocals, ghaida, kaval, duduk, zurna). Over the years, the lineup as changed slightly, yet their music remains solidly anchored in the their culture and genre.
Hailing from Bulgaria, this band brings their own unique culture to the world through their music as well as their own interests in various arts and history. They take this background and create a beautiful style of music spanning the ages, hearkening back to the medieval times of old to the modern use of electronic keyboards and various middle eastern and gypsy styles. Fans of Dead Can Dance have found another great new group creating this type of music.
Prikosnovenie picked up this group and first released music from them on their label sampler Fairy World Music Vol. 1. In 2003 the debut self-titled album was released on this label in Europe. Two years later Dancing Ferret Discs' Noir label picked up this album to re-release it to the North American audience. Following another two year break and the band presented us with the sophomore album released simultaneously in North America and in Europe through Prikosnovenie and Noir Records. This was a great event to be celebrated by music fans as the great music spread throughout the world. In 2015, another great album was released on Prikosnovenie titled The Eternal Return. Check out selected tracks on the ethereal radio show here.
The Eternal Return - Review
Once again it was with great pleasure that we were greeted with new material from these talented musicians. On this latest album we see the musicians take their music to a new level in many respects, expanding yet remaining anchored in the solid foundations of their musical and cultural history. In this album we're presented with an hour of music spanning ten spellbinding tracks that mesmerizing and captivate the listener with the haunting vocal melodies and myriad of instruments and percussion.
The title track kicks it all off in their classic fashion of long and enthralling pieces as the music slowly builds and drifts along sporting a heavy mix of soft and somber music as a nice backdrop to Denitza's siren-like vocals. After this ten minute piece, we are transported to a dreamy world with the sound of whales and underwater life in "The Cave of Swimmers" featuring a nice mix of somber male and female vocals over the downtempo percussion and hauntingly beautiful music. These first couple of tracks quickly stood out as favorites for us and our listeners and set the stage and tone for most of the album. While there are some pieces that hearken to an age of dancing around a campfire with a drum circle and various pipes, lutes and flutes such as with "Burana", for the most part the music remains grounded in the soft and somber, hypnotic music. This remains strong throughout much of the album. "In The Gardens of Armida" really stands out as one of these soft, yet captivating pieces with the stirring flute starting it off and slowly building with a mix of various other instruments. These haunting moods carry on through "Ispariz" featuring some subtle instruments though at times remaining completely accapella which is beautiful. As we grow closer to the album coming to a close, we're greeted with another of these somber, yet captivating pieces with "Tebe Poem". With these captivating pieces, the listener is lulled off to a dreamy and enchanting world surrounded by this beautiful and powerful music. After the heavier "Day to Pray" the album comes to a close with "Nehet" which is very repetative and hypnotic in it's own way, though not exactly what I would deam a great finale to the album with so many other treasures available.
With that another great album comes to a close. For those looking for the soft and mesmerizing ethereal pieces, this album has a nice selection and a nice mix. Definitely the softer pieces stand out more to me and I believe listeners and readers here will agree. This is a great addition to our library, well worth picking up for yours.
Seraphim - Review
It has been a long and anxious wait since the release of their debut work for something new from this awesome group. And now we have it and it's truly magnificent packaged in a beautiful digipack for the european release and simple jewel case with beautiful artwork for the North American audience, but the music is the same and it's absolutely stunning.
I look back on the review of their debut album and realize how much I've really grown to love the music from these talented artists. Since then, their debut has become a well-used work in my collection and listeners to the Gothic Paradise Ethereal radio show should be very familiar with many tracks. This new work just builds on that solid, tried and true style with authentic and beautiful sounds from an array of varied instruments. All of this comes together in one beautifully stunning piece after another, starting off with the sweet, mesmerizing "Simurgh". This introductory track moves along slowly with harmonized vocals layered over the soft percussion and a full ensemble of instruments for a vibrant backdrop. These lurid mixes of vocals and beautiful instruments shine so well across multiple tracks such as the more upbeat and brigher "Vernal Garden" or the moodier work "Star of the Winds (Khaukab al Hawwa)".
While nothing stands out as much as "Monsalvato" did on their debut album, this entire work is a little more homogenous with each track really being a key part of the disc in it's own way. The tempo and intensity varies, and not necessarily in direct proportions, for example, the shear beauty and intensity is awe-inspiring on the mostly accapella piece "Invocatio". In addition, when you move right into the next piece "Hagia Sophia", after a slow and subtle build up of strings, you're launched right into a barrage of varied, moving percussion and deep cello providing the tapestry for the moody and beautiful vocals. The mix of deep male vocals on this and several other tracks also provides an excellent depth to the album making it that much more enjoyable that simply "more of the same".
This group has done very well in following up their debut with something that is memorable and is sure to please fans the world over. I think it's a true pleasure to have this album as an addition to any fan's music collection.
Irfan - Review
When I received news of the release of this awesome Bulgarian group to the North American audience through Noir Records, I was elated. I became acquainted with the awesome sound from Irfan just over a year ago with the release of the Prikosnovenie compilation Fairy World Music Vol. 1. The inclusion of "Otkrovenie" was a perfect mix for that compilation and a great introduction to this group. Needless to say, this band is a perfect match for the Prikosnovenie roster.
The similarities to Dead Can Dance have been brought through the various press releases and information. I think this is accurate in many ways, but also would like to draw attention to the shear unique beauty in various masterpieces that are more than mere copies. The introductory track "Monsalvato" has quickly become my favorite from this album. The slowly building strings and mixture of deep droning vocals with the breathtaking soprano throughout the entire eleven minutes is pure majesty. Most other songs pale in comparison and I could live with this one song and be content.
However, the album doesn't stop there with just one catchy piece, but includes nine illustreous works, ranging from this sweet beauty to various folk, arabic and medieval masterpieces. Several tracks are based on lyrics or music of diverse ancient and traditional pieces. "Elena" is a sweet rendition of a traditional Bulgarian song. The authentic sound of this piece along with the moving soprano vocals evokes soft and fond emotions of mystical places. "Gospodi Pomilui" is based on another Bulgarian piece from the 11th century. Again the rendition of this piece is moving in it's subtle beauty of accapella verse. "Santa Maria" is one of the most moving pieces with the lyrics taken from a cantique from 13th century, Spain. The mid-tempo percussion mixed with acoustic guitar provide a nice backdrop for the angel-like vocals that soar through the air.
These traditional pieces show how well the talents of this group come together based on existing lyrics or music. But the demonstration of their own pure intellect and talents is unmatched by tracks like the already mentioned "Monsalvato", the upbeat piece "Salome" and similar "Return to Eden". These and the other tracks blend together well forming a nice tapestry of traditional and folk music from various parts of the ancient world.
Once again it's nice to have another group we can hopefully enjoy for many years to come. Just with this album alone, I think they have formed a classic that will be remembered for years.
Label: Dancing Ferret / Noir Records