Albert Kuvezin and Yat Kha - Re-Covers
Tim Miller 13/08/2005
'Strange' might be the buzzword of this album, though even 'album' is a word that falls short of accurately depicting this CD - 'an experience' is perhaps a better way to describe listening to Kuvezin's take on 14 songs that have influenced him with his own songwriting. For this album is truly bizarre. Even when the musical accompaniment is something approaching normal, or standard, Kuvezin's voice is unique. From Hungary, Kuvezin's vocals are extraordinarily deep, delivered in a thick Eastern European accent. The sort of voice you might expect an old, dying Red Indian to sing with (minus, of course, the Russian accent). You really do have to hear it to believe it.
This collection of songs Kuvezin has chosen to cover stretches across many boundaries, from Led Zeppelin's 'When The Levee Breaks' to Kraftwerk's 'Man Machine', passing tracks from Joy Division, Motorhead, Marley and Santana in between. All the songs here are some of Kuvezin's favourite that have influenced him; and when covering them he takes his own Tuvan (this reviewer understands/guesses this to be a Hungarian region) influences to put an entirely different spin on these songs. Some of the songs, like Love Will Tear Us Apart, are simply Kuvezin with an acoustic guitar, a standard arrangement made unique by these vocals. (Honestly, it's weird. Utterly weird.) But, since Kuvezin's choice of tracks is so broad, so too are the range of instruments used: sitars playing Javanese scales, a bass approaching an electronic didgeridoo sound, what sounds like harps, Flamenco guitar, normal distorted guitar. Some of the accompaniments are sparse and some are far more layered, though at no point do Kuvezin and Kha create soundscapes that resemble standard pop songs. In fact, his version of a Russian composer's 'A Song about a Giraffe' conjures clearly an image of a snow-laden clearing in a forest, a blazing campfire and several empty bottles of strong vodka lying around.
Anyone can cover a song: the trick to a successful covering is to make it your own. If the song is already great, then the difficulty is to make it great again. Kuvezin could make any song his own with ease, since he possesses such a voice, but he does, at times, achieve some bizarre but astounding covers. High points include his takes on Captain Beefheart's 'Her Eyes are a Blue Million Miles' and Motorhead's 'Orgasmatron'. Unfortunately, the downright peculiar tracks - versions of 'Ramblin' Man', originally by Hank Williams, and the Rolling Stones' 'Play With Fire' for example - become simply a little too much to cope with in one go.
Back, then, to that buzzword. There is a strange choice of songs here. Kuvezin's vocals are strange to say the least. It is strange how completely unconventional the instrumentation is. It's strange that he chooses to sing a couple of the tracks in their original Russian. And so on. I think perhaps only Kuvezin's home of Tuva is ready for this cover album, but for anyone with a will to listen, even if only for a minute or two, a slice of something extraordinary awaits.
Released (never a truer word spoken) - 15th August 2005.