Album Review

Hala Strana – “Heave The Gambrel Roof ” – [Music Fellowship]

Daryl Licht   10/26/2007   12-inch, A Library

Steven R. Smith is, in my humble opinion, a nearly criminally overlooked and underappreciated musician who has been creating great music as both a solo artist and as a member of such projects as Thuja and Mirza for many years. He began his Hala Strana project in 2002 and ???Heave The Gambrel Roof??? is the fourth full length release under the Hala Strana name. Although numerous musicians have contributed to the project over the years, most Hala Strana recordings are solo productions and only the opening track of this LP features any outside contributors. As always, Smith uses an array of instruments (many which he built himself!) such as the bouzouki, cello, harmonium, hurdy gurdy, spike fiddle, and, of course, the more common tools of the modern music trade, the electric guitar and organ, to create this collection of dronescape miniatures and dazzling, pan-global acid folk.

Four of the eleven tracks are interpretations of Albanian folk tunes and two of these are among the highlights of the album. The spectacular ???Wedding Of The Blind??? opens the B-Side with a rich dronescape that builds until Smith cuts in on guitar with a righteous, almost rockin??? groove. The title track displays, at least, a reflection of its Balkan roots, combining layers of plucked, strummed, and frenetically bowed acoustic instruments to mesmerizing effect. Several of Smith???s original pieces are also quite impressive. ???Grain??? is the best among several more contemporary sounding acid folk tracks on the LP. ???Molars Of Smoke??? exhibits a Far Eastern influence, with lots of hand percussion, bells, and, in general, a spacious ambience that makes it the album???s most psychedelic track. ???Marl??? is a jubilant piece that borders on ???pop??? territory. ???Heave The Gambrel Roof??? is a carefully constructed, beautiful, and hypnotic release that???s truly one of Smith???s best! DL

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