SHANYIO “C” (Hiss and Groove)

What mysterious sounds emanate from behind the Romanian border? As I sit in my office chair – actually, more like shivering in the corner with terror, trying to avoid lapsing into a black-magic-induced coma – I’m overcome with the weird sensation that the definitions in my brain of “Romania” and “music” should be fully disassembled and reevaluated. For one, there’s that whole gypsy thing that I probably should get past (damn you Beirut and Guy Ritchie’s Sherlock Holmes!). For two, there’s that whole Bram Stoker’s Dracula thing I should get past (Transylvania, of course, being a part of Romania), but I’m never not going to be glad I read that book, because that book is way too awesome to avoid (I strongly recommend it, you guys). Shanyio, Alexandru Hegyesi and a couple friends here and there, does his (pretty much) electroacoustic thing, fixing field recordings over, essentially, bowed anything (cymbalom, dulcimer, psaltery) along with other types of instrumental ephemera such as recorder, gusla, glockenspiel, piano, distorted bass guitar, etc. What the hell is a “gusla”? Beats me. Turns out Hegyesi has quite a discography under his belt, but if C is your introduction to his work, you’re in good hands. The album is called C because the central gimmick is that each track’s title begins with the letter “C,” from “Curgător” to “Coda,” although most of the titles are in Romanian. Doesn’t really matter, though, as the surprise and shock that this isn’t a gypsy recording is enough to pulverize your central focus, although that wears off quickly enough. And thank god it does, because C is packed with compositions designed to hold your attention as they almost all uniformly creep up your spine and into your brain stem, all after passing through your ear canals of course. I’ve never been so terrified by the quacking of a duck, for instance, as I was upon hearing it in the middle of “Ciarda”! And follow that with the wailing-across-the-moor of “Cotzofana”?! Shanyio, what are you trying to do, freak us out until we succumb? Well it’s working. Are you trying to redefine the definition of music as it comes from your country? Well, that’s working too. I’m pretty much in your debt, in fact, that I don’t have to turn to DeVotchKa anymore when I want to point to “that sound,” however Americanized it may be. You’ve got the historical revision covered. (And I guess I like DeVotchKa OK.)

--Ryan Masteller