If you hadn’t heard of Oi Va Voi, their reappearance in 2007 with their eponymous second album was something of a surprise. Even if you had, I suspect Yuri would have taken you aback somewhat.
On the previous album Laughter Through Tears, they had launched their own career and also that of KT Tunstall with a folksy blend of Balkan, Jewish, and various other sources of music. It was beautiful and sweet, but realistically was never going to be the kind of thing that would yield many huge chart hits.
Yuri, meanwhile, opens the second album, and is lively, very Eastern European in sound, and a huge amount of fun. It’s a piece about the Soviet obsession with space, and if that sounds like an unlikely combination of influences, it definitely is. It’s also absolutely brilliant, in every way.
There really isn’t much else like it on the album, which is definitely something of a shame, although it doesn’t diminish the quality of what is on here. Further Deeper is a melancholic piece full of unusual instrumentation and a great vocal.
There’s a noticeable mix of male and female vocals, which is often lacking on releases like this, and works very well. Look Down has similar instrumentation to its predecessor, but sounds very different, and the vocal helps a lot. It’s another beautiful piece.
After a while, the tracks do start to drift past a little. Dissident is pleasant, and Balkanik is a largely instrumental that does slightly echo Yuri. Then Black Sheep is a sweet folksy piece with contemporary backing that stands out rather more.
Then there’s a short instrumental, Nosim, before the pleasant but forgettable Dry Your Eyes, and then the lovely Worry Lines. The album is disappearing quickly, and that’s a great shame. It’s beautiful, sweet, and also not enormously exciting a lot of the time. Which isn’t entirely a problem – considered as a single piece, it’s a great album. But bluntly, there’s nothing quite as special as Yuri on here, and it could really do with that.
So in a way, the two minute instrumental and spoken word closing track Spirit of Bulgaria is all the more surprising. It’s nice to have something this witty at the end, but some degree of continuity would have been nice too, tying things back to the “Говорит Москва,” (“Moscow is speaking”) sample that opened the album. Given that this album came a full four years after the debut, you would think they might have got a bit more continuity in place.
But then, if you just listen to it as it is, and try to enjoy it, there’s a lot to appreciate here. Hopefully Oi Va Voi returned a couple of years later with the wonderful Travelling the Face of the Globe, and hopefully they will be back again soon with another multinational work.
The album Oi Va Voi is widely available.