Ash (Æ)
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Ash (Æ)

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE

New York City, New York, United States | INDIE
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"CD Review"

Review from fRoots (UK-based folk music publication, Jan/Feb Issue 2011):

Aurelia Lucy Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack--æ-- are based in Brooklyn, NY, but you wouldn't know it from this album, as much of their repertoire is based on Primack's Balkan roots and performing history and Shrenker's Georgian research and musical traditions. Together, they both sing, with panduri (Georgian lute) and accordeon the only accompaniments, bar some echoing, spare fiddle from Jesse Kotansky on the Albanian Dardha Rrumbullake and Appalachian Wind and Rain; this latter is a bleak traditional song whose mood is also apparent in the other Appalachian offerings, The Day and Idumea, and even the more upbeat Across the Blue Mountains has that high mountain sound. And that's where æ excel: whether singing songs from Georgia (Tu Ase T'urpa Iqavi andSat'rpialo, Greece (Thalassa or Beno Mes T'abli), Albania, Bulgaria or the Ukraine, the purity of the two voices and understated but always right accompaniments focus attention on the emotions of the pieces; in this vein, the Corsican Tota Pulchra Es Maria is gem-like in its intensity, and the Yiddish Di Sapozhkelakh combines lyricism and minor-key sadness, and there is even a very small hint of the blues throughout, although never more than a fragment here and there.

This is a lovely album that demands the listener's attention in every track; æ know the musics featured inside out, it seems, and their atmospheric treatments bring out the songs in a narrative that transcends language and gets to the heart of traditional music.
www.aesings.com
Ian Kearey - fRoots Music Magazine


"Gorgeous Balkan and Appalachian Vocal Harmonies from Æ"

Plaintive, austere, otherworldly and often hauntingly beautiful, this isn’t your typical a cappella album. Imaginative Brooklyn vocal duo Æ’s claim to fame is that they’re equally at home with earthy Balkan folk music as they are with Americana. The most innovative cuts here interpolate Applachian and Balkan themes, revealing the strange yet familiar commonalities in two styles that seemingly could not be more dissimilar. As the two voices interweave, one obvious comparison is Mariana Sadovska’s rearrangements of rustic Carpathian songs; other times, they evoke popular Brooklyn buzz band Black Sea Hotel. The two women were seemingly born to blend voices together – they could be sisters. Eva Salina Primack is highly sought after as a lead singer throughout the Balkan music world; Aurelia Shrenker, her onetime bandmate in the American folk group the Sirene Trio, is equally renowned as a performer and interpreter of Georgian ballads. Primack’s voice is a little more glimmering and gregarious, Shrenker’s somewhat more wary and haunting. But when the two switch roles, it’s effortless and at that point it’s impossible to keep track of who’s singing what. Their voices are augmented tersely and rustically with Primack’s accordion and Shrenker’s panduri, along with some striking violin by Jesse Kotansky on two tracks.

The first of the interpolations has Shrenker doing a potently effective slide up from her lower register. The second is hypnotic and eerie, drone versus melody, accordion looming ominously in the background; the last one contrasts Primack’s vivid Appalachian twang against Shrenker’s stately, low Georgian tones. Shrenker evokes Linda Thompson, apprehensive yet completely in command on a couple of stark Georgian folk songs, while Primack’s longing intensity on a Ukrainian number is goosebump-inducing. The Americana numbers here aren’t exactly yuppie-friendly singalongs: Wind and Rain (which many of you know) is a gleeful murder ballad with a decomposing corpse as its centerpiece, while Across the Blue Mountains documents an averted seduction, in fact maybe an averted kidnapping. There’s also a rapt, hypnotic, hymnlike Corsican song, several vividly bucolic mountain ballads from Albania and Greece and a klezmer tune done so affectingly by Primack, right down to the vocalese on the chorus, that there’s no need for a band behind her. Which could be said for everything else on the album.

URL: http://lucidculture.wordpress.com/2010/01/20/gorgeous-balkan-and-appalachian-vocal-harmonies-from-æ/ - lucidculture.wordpress.com


Discography

Æ, Æ (self-titled), 2009. Self-produced, independently released.

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Bio

"...a riveting, otherworldly performance of both Americana and exotic, bucolic songs from considerably further east of Appalachia. The two are like sisters – their camaraderie and shared intuition for tempos, harmonies and dynamics are as uncanny as the music they sing...their voices are the voices of old souls, wary, a little battlescarred, passionate with the knowledge that lack of passion equals death" -Lucid Culture, NYC-based music review, about a show of ours in NYC 3/8/10 (www.lucidculture.wordpress.com)

"It is extremely rare for singers from one cultural frame to capture the true essence and expression of another culture, no less of several different cultures. Aurelia Lucy Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack do this effortlessly and with extraordinary technical skill and artistic innovation. Their singing simply takes my breath away. " -Ethel Raim, Center for Traditional Music and Dance (www.ctmd.org)
Aurelia Shrenker and Eva Salina Primack have been performing together as Æ ("ash") since 2007. Based in Brooklyn, NY, they perform internationally and have just released their debut CD, the self-titled Æ. Playing to hugely diverse audiences in sold-out shows at venues ranging from Joe's Pub in New York City to Ashkenaz in Berkeley, CA, these two young women bring together their deep understanding of different vocal traditions to create something new and daring with each song. They have chosen the name Æ because it represents something of a dual nature--not singular, not plural, but exactly two. Accordion and Georgian panduri at times add a further dimension to the naked and honest beauty of two unaccompanied voices, creating a rich tapestry with a variety of textures and ambiance in their live performance. Their repertoire includes songs from Appalachian, Balkan, Caucasus Georgian, and Corsican traditions. In addition to their album, Æ is featured in the soundtrack of "The Great Soviet Eclipse", the newest film produced under the auspices of the Museum of Jurassic Technology (www.mjt.org). Æ's work is rooted in folk culture and never falls short of being visceral and provocative--in their music, youthful exuberance and reverence for ancient tradition seamlessly coincide.

A native of Santa Cruz, California, Eva Salina Primack has been studying, performing, and teaching Balkan music since she was a young child. She has traveled and performed internationally, worked with many well-known Balkan and American musicians, including Slavic Soul Party!, Which Way East, Kadife, Veveritse, Seido Salifoski's Romski Boji, Édessa, Tzvetanka Varimezova, Italian Balkan Jazz Project Opa Cupa and KITKA. In addition to her work as a performer, Eva teaches singing in New York City and internationally at camps, workshops and festivals.

Aurelia Shrenker has been singing music from various world traditions from the time she was thirteen years old. While growing up in the Northeastern United States she traveled extensively, both on her own sojourns and with Vermont-based touring ensemble Northern Harmony. Aurelia has focused on Georgian music over the last decade and visited the country on numerous occasions as a musician, volunteer, and tour-guide. Aurelia received her BA from NYU's Gallatin School with a concentration in Pedagogy, Literacy and Orality. She performs both as a soloist and with Æ.