Boris Kovac & Ladaaba Orchestra
Ballads at the End of Time
Boris Kovac, one of the leading lights of European composers, founded the LADAABA Orchestra around the time of the NATO bombing of Kosovo. La Danza Apocalyptica Balcanica (or LaDaABa Orchest) was a creative outlet to handle the idiocy and madness of war. As a Serbian, Kovac had a ringside seat to the savagery that war unleashes. He wrestled with this theme on the LADAABA Orchestra’s first release, Last Balkan Tango, in 2001. But if the 2001 release was party music for the end of time — dance music of the apocalypse — then this release serves as a soundtrack for the morning after. As Kovac writes in the liner notes, “Ballads at the End of Time is offered as the last album of the La Danza Apocalpsa Balcanica Project. I hope such a theme will never inspire me again.”
An inspiring reflection that playfully addresses life after the apocalypse, this album is a raucous exploration of life and loss. Supporting this lively approach are the many musical styles Kovac deftly manipulates. One can hear the sensual rhythms of the tango, rustic, earthy gypsy melodies and the impeccable skill of a classical arranger at play. The songs range from rollicking dancehall numbers full of crashing crescendos to quiet introspective pieces that are as plaintive as they are beautiful. The musicians themselves contribute much to this release with their skillful use of clarinets, accordions, the alto and soprano sax and the accordion. This is in addition to the use of the drums, bass and guitars alongside instruments that I have never heard of before (the amburitza and darabuka).
Above all else, Kovac demonstrates a thorough understanding of the human condition; that is, those qualities that, above all else, differentiate us from other creatures. His music, as it veers between the joyful exuberance of play and somber reflections on loss and love, nonetheless retains a firm grasp of all the elements that define humanity and is awe inspiring in its treatment of them. This is one of the best releases of the year.