Kroke / The Sounds of the Vanishing World

Album cover: Interesting photo of what could be a peasant scene from another age.

The Sounds of the Vanishing World
Oriente, 1999 RIEN CD 24

Distributed in the United States by Hatikvah Music

I have never been sure whether I like Kroke or not. A cassette I picked up several years ago in Krakow was a pleasure, "Accoustic Klezmer Music". But material since then seemed often derivative or recycled. The deep, almost depressing sound they get from bass, violin, accordeon, can get tiresome when the material is not really, really good. I think on this latest album, the material is really good.

The sparse, trilingual (German, English, French, but not Polish) liner notes indicate a concern with environmental or social issues, and the song titles, "Earth," "Air", "Time," "Dance," etc., echo that concern. The band could similarly point to their own history, starting out playing for tourists in a partly reconstructed Jewish quarter in Krakow, and then moving into new, and sometimes deeper sounds, such that they often sound like a meld of both klezmer and classical traditions. In fact, that which is most jarring about their klezmer playing probably comes from a sense of metronomic time that would have been unusual among klezmorim 100 years ago, but fits very much how we want to hear music today.

Despite the tune names, the actual content of the CD is mostly traditional klezmer, modified and extended thoughtfully, achieving, as if by accident, some of the longer piece complexity carefully researched and presented by Khevrisa. The klezmer tunes are present in Kroke's music, and very discernible here, but this is not dance music. Here, the focus is also on ensemble playing, rather than on individual virtuosity, and the influences on the extensions to traditional music are clearly much more in line with recent classical traditions or even some jazz. Even when the music becomes more intense, as on "Fire", or stretches out in a "spacier" mode on the following "Water," the sound is still approachable. On the final tune, however, the title track, I found myself thinking, "truly universal international folk stuff." One could easily substitute a didgideroo into the opening instrumentation, or hear similar sounds at the end of one of Paul Winter's Consort albums. This in no way downplays the quality or thoughtfulness of the music; rather I comment on how far this music has come from any specific cultural context.

Ultimately, the music is quite interesting, if only because it is both different from what is normally heard, and well-done. This is also music that is easy to listen to, end of day before going to sleeep music. Fans of bands such as Kol Simcha will find this band even more approachable than I. Yet, there is also a trace of that "outdoor cafe sound" that may remind listeners of the band's origins, and probably accounts for the parts of the music that I find most interesting.

Reviewed by Ari Davidow, 7/23/00

Personnel this recording:
Tomasz Kukurba: viola, violin, vocals, percussion
Jerzy Bawol-: accordeon
Tomasz Lato: double bass

Dariusz Gela: vocals (9)


  1. Earth—Behusher Chosid (trad., arr. Kroke) 4:58
  2. Air (Tomasz Kukurba/Jerzy Bawol-) 2:19
  3. Question—Bublitschki (trad., arr. Tomasz Lato) 0:43
  4. Time (Tomasz Lato) 6:10
  5. Dance (Jerzy Bawol-) 6:09
  6. Love—Lullaby for Kamila (Jerzy Bawol-) 3:04
  7. Fire (Tomasz Kukurba) 6:01
  8. Water (Kroke) 12:01
  9. The sounds of the vanishing world (Kroke/Dariusz Grela) 4:21

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