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Folk Tales
Artist: Eastern Blok
Label: Paperwork Media
9 tracks (52 mins) 
The cover and name rightly suggest an Eastern European feel to the music, but there is just as much jazz, if not more, on this wholly instrumental set. If they lightened up, I'd be tempted to say that they brought to the classical / folk / jazz / flamenco overlap the same Balkan dance element that Gogol Bordello bring to punk.
First track “Tango Pajdusko” sets the tone with guitar reflecting vibrant Slavonic dance. Saxophone soon picks up the riff and brings in the jazz factor.
“Songs from the Black Sea” follows it and introduces an entirely new ambience, akin to Middle Ages folk with flutes floating over a distant harmonium (and the guitar fretboard still scorched from the speed of Goran Ivanovic's playing).
The band slow down occasionally, as for “Sorrow's Secret,” with its almost hypnotic strings and strong visual appeal. They have been chosen to appear in the Wanted movie and this track could fit comfortably against scenes of (for example) a couple walking by a river at a key, tense point in their relationship.
Eastern Blok's skill is beyond doubt. Their “Blacksmith's Song,” not on this collection, was chosen from a list of thousands to reach the final three of he 2005 John Lennon Songwriting Competition. The band's talent also shows in the dazzlingly accurate way that the twin leads play together – especially given the tricky time signatures they often use.
At times though, it seems as if the band want to show this technical wizardry at the expense of melody. To try before you buy, anyone who likes “Balkan Healer” (which appears at alongside “Songs from the Black Sea”) is bound to enjoy the rest of the disc, which is a far easier listen.
Derek Walker


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