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The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices & Lisa Gerrard – “BooCheeMish” Review

The best vocal album of 2018
The Mystery of Bulgaria Voices and Lisa Gerrard
The Mystery of Bulgaria Voices and Lisa Gerrard

Two absolute titans of unique vocal performances and world music collide when songstress Lisa Gerrard was able to collaborate with The Mystery of the Bulgarian Voices. Notoriously protective of their craft, the voices rarely release material as a stand-alone album so it’s with great delight to have it happen – and for it to be fantastic from start to end too.

The Voices have a certain other world quality with their ancient heaven attack on your senses and they inject a darker tone by pitch bending their own voices in an uncanny fashion. For the most part, they take charge and Lisa Gerrard’s voice sits in the mix, occasionally popping out for some solo sections of duets with other leads. It works well because neither really take full centre stage and the mutual respect shown is evident.

Across the thirteen studio tracks on the regular version of the album, we are treated to ancient voices and fair few drums. From the opening moments of “Mome Malenko” you can hear something special is coming. The way the initial voices begin and then gain power with the bass layer that add a wonderful texture gives me chills every time.  Occasional guitar or bass appears and that is used perfectly in the Mediterranean “Pora Sotunda” which lets Lisa take some solo time in an ever explosive piece that melts lush guitar and drums into something you could enjoy in a scary cave, or on a beach sunset. In fact, the album has quite a lot of uptempo celebratory tracks. “Rano Ranila” is like a ceremonial jig as woman cheer and whoop over the beat and cyclic chants. “Yove” is also another wonderful explosion of colourful sound. The bright and beautiful melodies feel fantastic as singular voices take their turns to break rank from the chant and unfurl over the top. It’s like the musical equivalent of firework embers leaving a trail behind – no doubt put in my mind from Kate Bush’s Rocket’s Tail collaboration with them. “Tropanitsa” is the tropical track with lots of lovely woodwinds and exotic percussion. “Shandi Ya” takes us to the Middle East too with a lush and rousing piece.

For each celebratory piece, there is also something more foreboding and atmospheric. “Unison” is wonderfully off-kilter. The Voices appear to call a warning before Gerrard takes verses solo in a very powerful push from her voice that we haven’t heard for some time. Her soundtrack work is often very ethereal but softened – here she’s bringing a real depth and angst with her work – like she’s retapped into a new passion. “Sluntse” has an extended mysterious instrumental section of gadulka (Bulgarian violin) whilst cathartic dirges and drones of “Zableyalo Agne” feel almost religious and tribal from the dark depths of the night. “Ganka” uses voice only for the majority of the track and it’s the power of the push of so many voices together that stuns you. Usually, the arrangements are so complex you don’t hear everyone singing the same thing together but here you do and its hair-raising stuff. “Stanka” is an orchestral lament which feels dramatic as strings and brass support some absolutely pure Bulgarian folk singing. It’s the only piece that feels like its soundtrack bound as everything else is very organic and purist. “Sluntse Milo, Yasno Greiche” rounds things off like a morning rain. The voices are mysterious but lighter. I highly recommend grabbing the “Luxus” edition as you’ll get four additional live tracks. They are pitch perfect and as the vocal arrangements push Lisa and a few of the soloists forward in the mix, they feel a little different.

Frankly, I am blown away with “BooCheeMish”. For me, it’s a combination of two of my most respected vocal performers and they’ve been given full leeway to unleash their talents. It’s a special album that doesn’t come along often and I only hope you enjoy it as much as I have.

Recommended Track:  Yove

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