by Ian Mann
May 31, 2018
All of the Stoysin hallmarks are here, gorgeous folk inspired melodies, skilful but unhurried playing, a pristine recorded sound and an obvious love of both humanity and nature.
“Above The Clouds”
(Sun Recordings BS-SR 24597-8)
Born in the former Yugoslavia in the university town of Novia Said, now in modern day Serbia, acoustic guitarist, composer and educator Branco Stoysin has been based in London for over twenty years. His jazz influences include Joe Pass, Charlie Parker and Antonio Carlos Jobim and he also acknowledges the inspiration of classical composers such as Vivaldi and Albinoni.
This new CD release, his eighth, celebrates the twentieth anniversary of the founding of Stoysin’s own Sun Recordings record label. It follows the the solo guitar albums “Something Between The Sea And The Sky” (1998), “Amber” (2000) and “Alone” (2013) plus the trio releases “Heart Is The Bridge” (2003), “Quiet Stream Breaks The Rocks” (2007) and “Inexhaustible (2009). The trio recordings feature Stoysin in the company of Leslee Booth on six string contrabass and Buster Birch on a combination of kit drums and percussion. The album “Lily Of The Valley” (2006) combines the two approaches with Stoysin joined on four of the album’s fifteen tracks by the bass of Booth.
Stoysin’s writing is inspired by the folk music of his native Yugoslavia (indeed “Lily Of The Valley” was comprised almost entirely of traditional tunes) and most of his albums consist of original tunes executed in a style somewhere between folk and jazz. All of Stoysin’s recordings place an emphasis on the clarity of sound and on an almost mystical sense of pastoralism and tranquillity. The result is frequently beautiful music that soothes and relaxes the listener but also contains much of interest to sustain and reward repeated listening. Stoysin albums are always immaculately recorded (“Alone” and “Above The Clouds” both feature the engineering skills of Derek Nash) and the skill of the playing is understated but obvious.
“Above The Clouds” expands upon the premise of “Alone” with Stoysin frequently overdubbing himself and also making use of field recordings. Most pieces feature either two or three guitars with one utilising as many as seven! More on that later.
The album commences with the title track with Stoysin commenting “Above the clouds, where it all starts with the mellow Sun, clouds may prevail but the Sun is ALWAYS above the clouds”. The tune features three guitars allowing Stoysin to perform lead, rhythmic and bass functions in a skilfully constructed performance that combines melody with colour and texture, and which concludes with an absorbing dialogue between dovetailing lead guitars.
Following on “Where It All Starts” also features three guitars, this time using the instruments to create interlocking arpeggios while making effective use of counterpoint. This layering process helps to form an effective backdrop for the emotive, crystalline sounds of Stoysin’s lead guitar.
Meanwhile “Mellow Sun” is a delightful solo guitar performance of a piece that has been the regular opening number of Stoysin’s live performances in recent years. The combination of folk melody and nimble but delicate guitar picking make it typical of Stoysin’s oeuvre. The piece originally appeared in 2000 on the “Amber” album
Following this opening trilogy we have “So Lovely”, a piece inspired by the beauty of springtime on the Danube. It’s here that Stoysin deploys seven guitars to create a rich polyphony that combines elements of minimalism with Slavic style folk melodies.
The identity of the dedicatee of “One Lady” remains a secret but the performance combines a mellow silkiness with some technically demanding playing. Recorded using two guitars it’s a beautiful rendition that is obviously very much a labour of love. This is another piece that originally appeared on the “Amber” album.
Another two guitar piece, “Dan The Sun,” is inspired by a young child and has an appropriately childlike air about it with a disarmingly charming melody that elicits a delightful performance from the guitarist.
“Disquietude” appeared on Stoysin’s 1998 début album “Between The Sea And The Sky” but was originally composed back in the 1908s and is officially the first tune that Stoysin ever wrote. Its inclusion here represents the completion of a circle but it’s a tune that has stood the test of time very well indeed. Performed here on two closely interlocking guitars it has lost nothing of its charm and vitality.
“Where Are You My Precious” represents a return to Stoysin’s Serbian roots. The guitarist arranged this version of the traditional Serbian folk tune written by the Serbian composers and poets Davorin Jenko and Branko Radicevic. Again performed on two guitars there’s a brooding, folk-loric quality about the playing that is undeniably beautiful.
Stoysin has long been an admirer and advocate of the Serbian born scientist Nikola Tesla and had dedicated two albums to his memory, including “Alone” on which the piece “Aurora Tesla” first appeared. This new interpretation features three guitars, the version on “Alone” had four, but is no less compelling. It’s a piece that grows steadily in terms of both rhythmic drive and musical complexity as it develops, a reflection perhaps of Tesla’s life.
Alongside his musical and teaching skills Stoysin is also an accomplished photographer who sells his work commercially. As a photographer he specialises in images of the natural world, particularly flowers and birds, and the final track on the album brings his numerous interests together. “Interlude With Birds” combines the music of three guitars with field recordings of birdsong. No fewer than thirty three bird species are featured on a recording that took some five years to complete. Stoysin integrates these sounds of the natural world with great musicality and one can’t help but be mesmerised by the results, as the composer promises. Stoysin’s beautiful and impressive photographs of several of the avian cast adorn the colourful album packaging.
Fans of Stoysin’s music will adore “Above The Clouds”. All of the Stoysin hallmarks are here, gorgeous folk inspired melodies, skilful but unhurried playing, a pristine recorded sound and an obvious love of both humanity and nature. At a superficial level it’s pretty and relaxing but this is music that reveals so much more, hidden just below the decorous surface.
Stoysin is a quiet virtuoso of the guitar who does things very much his own way. “Above The Clouds” is a worthy addition to an impressive and distinctive, if rather understated, body of work.
The album will be launched on 16th June 2018 at the Tara Arts Theatre in Earlsfield, London SW18, an event which will also include an exhibition of Stoysin’s photographic work titled “Beautiful Nature Right On Our Doorsteps”. For full details of this and other forthcoming live performances please visit http://www.brancostoysin.co.ukblog comments powered by Disqus