Už Jsme Doma – Caves

January 01, 1970

(Cuneiform)

 

www.cuneiformrecords.com

 

The long-running Už Jsme Doma has been through a quarter
century of mayhem, beginning its intricately-plotted, anarchically-energized
career in then Soviet-dominated Czechoslovakia.
Early on, the band played in secret, risked imprisonment and joined in
resistance efforts to form a more democratic state. Then, post-glasnost, they
emerged onto a larger, international stage, touring Europe and the United
States and once, serving as backing band for American art eccentrics, the
Residents.

 

Now, 11 albums and hoards of members later (Pepe Cervinka is
the band’s ninth  bassist), the band
careens on. No founders remain. The last remaining original member was
saxophonist Jindra Dolansky, and he left in 2001. Yet under the direction of
longtime singer, songwriter and lyricist Miroslav Wanek, Už Jsme Doma plots a
high-intensity, exotically complex course. It’s prog from Prague, certainly,
but there are also hints of marching band music, workingmen’s chants, jazz,
folk and even early 20th century classical music in these
hard-to-categorize tunes.

 

Caves is sung entirely in Czech, but liner notes reveal the
songs to be preoccupied with the action of water on stone, the drip by drip
erosion that can carve caverns out of solid rock or, perhaps, democratic
freedoms out of oppressive regimes. The music, though, works more like a bag of
hammers than a steady drip, punching out dense, conflicting, bayonet ridges of
percussive sound. Drums, guitars, bass and keyboards all take a pounding in
these songs, banged in intricate, staccato bursts, sometimes in unison,
sometimes in overlapping synchronicity.  

 

But to continue the water metaphor , there are two main
source of fluidity here. One is Wanek’s voice, which soars in triumphant,
Soviet-bloc certitude over all. He is joined, often enough, by a gang of male
voices singing in unison, like some sort of asymmetrical, off-kilter opera
chorus, shouting rhythmically (“Fascination”) or executing complicated
counterpoints as on frantic, manic “Reel.” At other times, as on the oddly
paced, quietly syncopated “Nugget,” Wanek trades melodic lead with
trumpeter  Adam Tomásek, who came into
the band after Dolansky left. Tomásek’s arrival set off a re-alignment of Už
Jsme Doma, as Wanek began writing what had been lead guitar lines for trumpet.

 

Most of the songs are aggressively paced, with rapid
interplay among guitar and bass and continuous explosiveness emanating from the
drums. Parts are intricately plotted, interlocking with each other in tight yet
unexpected ways. Intervals of lyricism – the stand-up bass and recorder
tranquility of album-ending “Lullaby for Anezka” – show this band’s sensitive
side, as does a close reading of Wanek’s lyrics. Yet, on the whole, Caves knocks you over with its
ceaseless, exuberant energy. Granted, running water will wear down mountains in
time, but a jackhammer is so much faster.

 

DOWNLOAD: “Nugget” “Fascination” JENNIFER
KELLY

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