Tuesday 14 February 2017


CD Review

Long Lost Home

The jury may be out as to whether Daria Kulesh is a bona fide Siren but the simple fact is that from the first tone of her hypnotic and opera-esque singing you are in her thrall. 

Daria Kulesh
With this album Kulesh takes the listener on a personal and historic journey, so there is always a risk when there is a strong and emotional connection that the listener is often kept on the outside.
This said, with Kulesh's diamond-cut tones you are drawn into a world which often blurs the line between myth and reality, where, like staring transfixed into the dancing flames of a campfire, the songs capture your imagination and you are lost in the surroundings Kulesh is recreating.
The deep tones of opener Tamara wrap around you, and even within the lyrics there is the warning of what is happening, "Enticing the heart of a stranger, seducing with magic delight." and "Great kings were ensnared by her singing, no man could her power withstand."  
The album is themed around the long lost land of her grandmother which was in southern Russia in the Caucasus Mountains and is also a potted history of the country outlining some of the incredible life stories and tragedies which have befallen her ancestors.
The Moon and The Pilot is a familiar track which Kulesh has released previously and is a story of love and dispossession. Inspired by her great-grandmother Diba Posheva who married a pilot, Rashid Akhriev.
He went on to be hailed and recorded as a hero while his wife and her people were declared enemies of the state and thrown from their homes by the orders of Joseph Stalin.
The simple but stunningly effective piano melody underneath Kulesh's voice gives it both a melancholy and admiring element.
You can almost see her bathed in the eerie alabaster light of the moon as she dances to create a picture of her ancestor and yet in the same sky of light, strength and beauty is the sorrow, loss and tragedy of the pilot who died in the line of duty.
In the storytelling Kulesh's incredible tones paint a picture no brush stroke could ever achieve.
There is a slightly lighter tone to Safely Wed in which Kulesh sings of comparative lives and the vagaries of forced marriages.
The stories involve both her grandmother and a distant aunt which make it a very personal song and, as a listener, you do feel a little like a visitor who has happened upon a family tale being told where the abundant metaphors are used almost like a code to tell the tale of eventually finding love.
Kulesh goes back even further through her lineage for Amanat which focuses on her great-great-grandfather who was forced to leave his home and be taken in by foster parents.
Laisat Baisarova
There is real and passionate grief in her voice as she tells the tale of his life and legacy.
The Hazel Tree is a song of longing where the tree is a metaphor for where the roots of her ancestors lie. With it's more contemporary and lighter beat under Kulesh's slightly tremulous voice, it is the story of aching to return to a forest which is a symbol of heart and home.
Kulesh tells it more like a story than a song with the tune sounding almost incidental on this occasion.
Distant Love/Gyanar Bezam is a traditional song translated by Kulesh. She captures the anguish of the woman who is the victim of an arranged marriage and as she suffers in silence for the honour of her family the only way she can express her heart is through song. Kulesh gives her a voice which carries over the ages.
The Panther is a slightly bizarre story of that rare breed, a female sniper. Laisat Baisarova disobeyed her masters and turned the deadly skills she possessed on them rather than her own people. Kulesh is almost dispassionate with her telling of the story perhaps mirroring the steely coldness of the deadly Baisarova.
The language Kulesh uses is very descriptive and borders on  the jingoistic, you get a sense that she has more than a sneaking admiration for her subject.
This is followed by Like A God which has the sense of a spiritual with what's close to a reggae beat underneath. Kulesh once again pulling the metaphors out of the bag to tell the story of doctor Alaudin Poshev, another of her ancestors, who risked his life to stand against the corruption and brutality of the regime surrounding him.
Once again Kulesh adopts more of a storytelling style rather than full singing. There is something almost patriotic sounding with Heart's Delight. Kulesh sounds more like she is reading out a stirring poem designed to rouse citizens into action, it even comes with the marching sound of the military drums.
Gone is a migration song written from the perspective of those who are trying to find their feet in a new country and culture. Kulesh puts her unique style of singing on the track which lies somewhere between the operatic, the showstopper and the folk ballad, something she does so well.
Carrying on with this theme is Only Begun,  another song of longing to be back where your heart is.
The solo album
Once again this was inspired by a member Kulesh's dispossessed family and how she remembers the little things in life which when gone take on such significance.
Kulesh adopts a breathy almost reverent style as if she is afraid of waking her forebears.
The wonderfully titled Untangle My Bones takes the album out and, like the Biblical story of Ezekiel in the valley of dry bones, is a tale of a fisherman who finds a skeleton which comes back to life as a beautiful woman whom he marries.
The tune is quite jazzy and there seems to be a conflict between Kulesh's vocals and the music but somehow the separation seems to work.
Kulesh has a style which, unlike anyone on the folk circuit, is partly down to her skill as a musician and songwriter but also because she has a whole different culture upon which to draw.
While this is a personal journey for Kulesh she has done it in a way that the listener does not feel prurient in any way, but more than that she is able to recreate, at least in music and song, a world which has been lost but is part of her personality and heritage.
Kulesh's album will be launched on 23 February 2017 at Cecil Sharp House. The date marks the anniversary of Stalin’s injustice over the deportation of the Ingush and the Chechens in 1944. Doors open 7pm and the show starts 7.30pm.
Tickets are £12 or £10 for U-26s and there is a booking fee. She will be playing with the full band and joined by friends Jonny Dyer, Timur Dzeytov, Vicki Swan, Pete MortonPhil Underwood, Jason Emberton and Kate Rouse.

Then on February 20 the band move on to The Pheasantry, Chelsea, London.  SW3 4UT. The show is a double bill with Pete Morton. Doors open 7pm and show starts 8.30pm, tickets are £15.
The following night, February 21, you can see Daria and Jonny Dye​r at Bracknell Folk Club, The Sun, Windlesham, GU20 6EN. Show starts 8.30pm.

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