Eyot: Drifters (Neuklang/One-HiFi)

The second album of the music group from Nis, Eyot, is a logical continuation of their debut `Horizon` - but on a higher level


Going on a road on the 1st of January, without looking at the weather forecast, is a daredevil move. While the car was moving with a wounded snail speed, on the Ibar road, cutting the dough heavy fog, the CD player was evilly spreading the sounds of the fresh edition of Nis`s Eyot. Tension was the highest in the moment of the lowest visibility together with the title composition – a perfect soundtrck for a Hollywood script without an end. As fate decided we arrived at the destination without any consequences, but the sound of `Drifters`, on account of barely surviving this experience, carved as a darker and more intense than the pianist and a composer Dejan Ilijic probably ever wanted.

The previous year was very successful for these Nis people. It all began with the February performance at the Cannes  MIDEM, the annual global music industry trade fair, which now, when the music industry is in fact dying, doesn`t have the same meaning as it used to have. But for promoting the band was still of immeasurable importance. They completed their last year with a tour at the Far East, with a success that is hardly connecting to anyone from this area who is not engaged in bleh music and populist notion of the local folklore. Moreover, Eyot was in every sense a mile away from such a show.

2013. is starting with a new, second album. Colleague Markovic reviewed the debut `Horizon` as one of the best releases that year in Serbia, but was also curios where is Eyot going to go from there. The first listen to the album gives the impression that the `Drifters` is a musically logical extension of its predecessor, but it is all built up to the next level. But let`s start from the surface – the technical quality of the sound.


In the studio


Although they had a couple of solutions in their sleeve, including the Real World Studios, the album was recorded last summer, in the Bauer Studios in Ludwigsburg near Stuttgart. In such circumstances, nothing is left to chance, because this is one of the oldest and most renowned sound studios in Germany. Bandleader Dejan Ilijic is full of praise: ` My first contact with them was in Cannes at the MIDEM. At that time they were already on my list of the studios to record the album at. And now I am definitely sure that we did not make a mistake choosing them. We went there to a regular studio recording, and the second day we got offered a deal that we later signed. Later we found out that it didn`t happen just when they heard us recording, but they were following us for some time already. I was thinking about offering them material, but they preempt me, which brought us the opportunity to look at a slightly better deal (laughs)`


Album `Horizon` (recorded in two days in the F.A.M.E.S. Studios in Skopje) nicely transferred the atmosphere of the live performance. However, the excellent technical conditions, and a great producer in sonic terms, got us a very visible progress: ` I am pleased with the final result. Philipp Heck (producer, authors note) has done a great job, and working together we pulled out  what was the best, although our ideas were not too different. Of course, `Horizon` has its own charm, and I`m glad they are different, and yet there is a thread in addition to musical sound. Also, this time we were prepared, we knew what was coming and we were much better organized. In any case, a real step forward`, adds Ilijic.




CD and promotion


It is interesting to note that the first album was released by for publishers, but to the physical cd`s  was very hard to get to, accent was more on the digital promotion, so the physical copy of `Horizon` (when the band reaches their planetary fame) is likely to be valid for a collector`s rarity. This time they chose just one, but by Ilijic`s words, the true publisher. Neuklang, which operates under the Bauer studios, as they say `a place for experiment, provocation and innovation`, the house that should be fully with the Nis musicians.

`It has been only a week since the date of issue, and there are already great things that happened. All About Jazz video and the mp3 of the day (14.01), great reviews in the Swiss magazine Kulturtipp, German radio show Le Journal Du Jazz, performance in the most popular jazz show in France – Open Jazz with Alex Dutlih, visits on our website increased by 200%. I got the information that the album was sent out to 200 addresses, and that is slowly giving results. In addition, we have an excellent distribution and the disc can be purchased in a number of countries. What is certain, with this album we will get a place in media circles, and set a good basis for the third album to do some great things. It is in any case the plan.`

Similarly as in the case of the band Naked, Eyot`s new album will be available only as an import item from the official Serbian distributor (One-HiFi), but no official local publishers. Contract with Neuklang is valid for the whole world, and the issuance of another house would not be possible. Yet in the interviews with Ilijic there is an impression of bitterness, especially towards the national production  (RTS), but we did not find out more about the details.

What, however, leaves an even more bitter impression is that the band in Serbia has a following and even a mini-cult status in the formation, and they did not have a serious promotion in Belgrade, and in their career they had only 4 festival appearances. Not much, considering that many festivals for whatever reason, supplement their programs with numbers that are far from current and exciting. And while this year`s calendar is primarily related to foreign countries, Ilijic speaks about the weak local promotion (which certainly is not on their consciousness) with these words:

`I`m not worried, or disappointed. Everything will come in time on their own. We did have a lot of performances in KC Grad in Belgrade, and the organizers were always correct, but we decided not to do more of these type of gigs, but we will look for something that fits better to our story. It`s too early to tell, but in October we are expecting something that will fulfill both our and expectations of the audience. Before then there will be a promotion of the album in February, but not followed by a complete performance.`

Ilijic does music since he was four years old, and long time ago he decided  that it will be his professional calling. Almost from the beginning, Eyot followed his vision to make the band with a respectable career in the world, and that its members can live off the fruits  of such status. Therefore, on the previous year he looks at only as an introduction to the real thing that will happen during the current season.


About the album


Finally, the most interesting part – the music from the new album.

As far as the form itself, we have the recognizable Eyot – relatively simple and repetitive harmonic and rhythmic base, plenty of dynamic variability, inevitable hypnotic quality, and a careful placement of each sound source in place. This time we get the interpretation from the source. Dejan told us, even before the concert at the last Nisville, that the new album will be a little faster, lighter ( he characterizes it as `sound optimism`) and generally accessible to a wider audience than the `Horizon`.

Although the first bars of the opening `She is dreaming of a better day` may not support such trades announced, we should point out that there has to be a hope: `It can also be seen from the perspective of the individual, or from our country. In any case, there is a concept built on the composition  based on the traditional music from this area, where a melody is repeated, and only the atmosphere changes and  brings a stronger energy from the circle into circle. As the ritual songs of old times.`



The next `The Crest Of The Wave` is chosen to be in the music video form (directed by Milenko Jovanovic), edited from the excerpts of the recording session in the studio, enabling listeners to have a first encounter with the new material. Here we already have a faster pace that was promised, and the energy and vitality of the song reflects the current spirit of the band`s self-confidence and that is by Ilijic`s opinion at the high level, just like the top of the waves from the title: `Final composition is one of my favorite parts of the album and the way we got there. The song was created a few weeks before the recording  and replaced some previous ideas, where there are many, maybe even for a complete third album.`

Ethnic motives in Eyot`s oeuvre are common, but always discreet. Thus, in the elegiac `At Source`, where we catch Ilijic at the end of the collective final crescendo in a short but effective improvisation inspired by local folk music: `At Source comes from the time of Horizon, but we saved it because of the stronger ethnic overtone that was quite present on the first album. At the source, where it all came from. My solo, which is really just the part of the composition, as I see it that way, stayed in the modes of it, so it could all sound somewhat crude and archaic.`

Moving on: `Coils. Like a machine that is growing in its size and strength. Groove, a little polyrhythm and lydian mode, I think this is one of the brighter spots in the album by its atmosphere.`

Role models and influences for creating the sound images of Eyot are different, and the band is very difficult to place in a certain drawer, and the question is how much jazz is their primary category in which we push them in by habit. In the following, `We`ll Get There`, I would take a freedom to observe the charm of the `Mysterious Traveler` phase of Weather Report, for their effective bass section which has almost a synth-quality.` The name will always be there to cheer us up (laughs). Perhaps completely different style from all the other songs, but we thought we needed it for a cross-section of the album.`

Then `disrepute` from the beginning of the article – `Drifters`, which is developing its excellent dynamic blocks, constant dialogue between guitar and piano, but most liable to the selection of the block chords by Ilijic who has a great sense of dramatization and creating the tension.

For the writer of these lines, the material by the style that stands out the most is `Firebird`, which starts unexpectedly    with piano dominant major chords in a let`s say r`n`b manner, like Ray Charles. `Firebird is perhaps the best example of how we see the mixing of the cultures between East and West. The song is named after a story in the Slavic mythology, The Fire of the Birds. In the base line that is in the piano, and then bass takes it over, there is a traditional tone in the spirit, let`s say like Herbie Hancock. The piano part at the end, and also the second theme in the song, openly shows the influence of Russian composers, notably Stravinsky`s famous ballet, whose name is the same`, says Dejan.

This is the only composition on the album where the band plays in that conventional manner – playing the solos, in the order – piano – guitar – drums: `Solos here reflect the western sound, but it is important that my Sladjan`s and Milos`s solo creat one idea of the solo. We are not interested in the `solo-applause` option, only composition as a whole.

Finally we come to the final 13- minute `The View Through The Blurry Window` which should be the ace of the band at the concerts. About it Ilijic says: It was not planned to last that long, but in the studio we had a moment where we played the second part without preparation. It was recorded in the first take, although the rest of the album was not recorded with too much repetition either, it was almost live. It`s a real mix of the first and the second album. Perhaps because it is at the end, one gets the impression that the album was dark. I think it would be a completely different picture if we put the `Firebird` at the end. In the end, it`s us, we carry the atmosphere of the area and our own.  This is the sound of Eyot that will follow us , with certain developments, throughout the career.`



Translation from original article: Sofija Knezevic

Track list: She is dreaming of a better day, The crest of the wave, At source, Coils, We`ll get there, Drifters, Firebird, The View Through The Blurry Window.

Musicians: Dejan Ilijic – piano, Milos Vojvodic – drums, Sladjan Milenovic – guitar, Marko Stojiljkovic – bass.


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