One thing that has not gone unnoticed in the age of streaming is the dearth of information about any given recording. For some forms of music (and for some listeners), this isn’t much of an issue.
But for more esoteric or less accessible styles, information can greatly enhance the experience of listening to the music. The members of the local Balkan music-inspired, folk-rock ensemble, Blato Zlato, understand this implicitly.
Their sophomore release, In the Wake, comes complete with extensive liner notes translating the lyrics from the original Bulgarian, Megrelian and Macedonian tongues. Without the English lyrics, the songs—though frequently fascinating—complete with three-part vocal harmonies that evoke an off-kilter (to Western ears) celestial choir, wouldn’t have as much of an impact.
The tunes, especially the originals, explore the relationship between the natural environment in the age of climate change and the fragility of human existence. The first cut, “Vodata Teche” lays it out explicitly. “The water runs under the streets/ The water runs under the town squares/ Where do you live?/ Where do you sleep?/ The water waits for you all.”
Elsewhere, the traditional Megrelian song, “Asho Chela,” which the liner notes explain is sung to oxen, reaches out to the animal world by empathizing with the life of a beast of burden.
All the songs on the album are arranged by the band and bring modern energy and a bit of New Orleans to an ancient genre, essentially creating a progressive take on the eastern European tradition. With fiddle, accordion, upright bass and the bass drum-like tapan, plus those swirling female voices, Blato Zlato has created an evocative album that taps into the zeitgeist. It is a welcome addition to their catalog as well as another layer in the burgeoning world music scene in New Orleans.