Recording information: Mouse Records Stusio, St. Petersburg, Russia (09/2003-11/2003).
Perhaps the most original recording of 2004 will be Evelyn Petrova's debut, Year's Cycle, on Britain's Leo label. Petrova hails from a small industrial village outside of St. Petersburg, and was trained classically at the St. Petersburg Conservatory. After graduation she studied free improvisation with the legendary Russian trumpet player and composer Vyacheslov Guyvoronsky. She plays in an ensemble with him and bassist Vladimir Volkov. Petrova's Year's Cycle is a solo recording, however. She performs 12 songs, all of them evocative of different regions of Russia and of each month in the year . Petrova's precision on the accordion is astonishing, as is her singing voice. Her songs range form wild and careening affairs that offer a muscular primitivism as well as a jazz improviser's sophistication. From screeching, groaning, moaning, and shouting to crooning, sweet, lullaby warbling, to clear-throated balladry, Petrova's voice is the other side of her voice; the accordion is the force which drives it, which caresses it, which soothes or agitates it. It is a confounding recording; it is at once accessible, intense, beautiful, moving, and jarring. It is so mercurial that the moment a listener feels she has latched on to its secret, it sprints out ahead and dares, in a delightful unpretentious way, the listener to venture forward a bit more. The sheer wildness and untamed naturalism of Year's Cycle makes it the first recording of truly "new" music in a very long time to come from Europe. There is no staid theory behind the sounds here, and no "art for art's sake" either. This is music rooted in the earth that reaches for the heavens without apology. It communes with the spirits because it comes from the body; it is informed by the mysterious nature of land itself. It's unlike anything you've ever heard before and it is brilliant, mad, and beautiful. ~ Thom Jurek