Folk fusion band Marek Dusil Blend provides a an insight into what it’s like to grow up in the later years of the ČSSR- Czechoslovakia.
Karlsbad is an album inspired from Marek Dusil’s time growing up in the Czech town, and is not shy about its roots. It’s a very ‘out there’ listen due to the fact that almost the entire album is sung in Czech, but this adds to its quirky charm and may be a diamond in the rough for those willing to dig for it.
The title track opens the album with a laid back and happy-go-lucky style, the sounds of twinkling coupled with a smooth bass track that shows a definite admiration for the singer’s hometown. Even if you don’t speak the language you can feel the love and happiness expressed, which is comparable to anyone who has a love for their home.
Dožij- Dopij, follows this same thread, slowing down the pace to a crawl with a pitter-patter drum and guitars that fade away to leave air very open. There’s a lot of empty space in the track, with the only consistent noise being the acoustics. The gentle guitar strums that fade away feed into the lullaby style of the track wonderfully.
The third track Time to Time switches things back up to the bouncy tempo of the opener and bops along merrily. It’s also the first track which crosses the threshold and brings in english lyrics. Oddly enough though, there is the same pleasant relatable feeling there. The realisation that the Marek Dusil Blend punches through the issue of language to make the music hit you, regardless of the language spoken.
Moving back to Czech, Útěky, is a more melancholic sound with a fast pace percussion. Hitting all the same styles as before whilst shaking up the sound with new guitar sounds and a very scratchy and rhythmic percussion.
Mohl bych is a whole fresh sound in it’s own. Roping in a funky guitar lick that would sound at home in a 70’s disco track. It continues the overall theme of Karlsbad by stripping the music back to nothing but a variety of acoustics, careful guitar placements and soothing vocals. The midway point moves the style into a more down tuned sound, shifting the mood to something more bittersweet and reflecting this by tuning down the instruments and disposing of the funky bass.
Z hodiny na hodinu, brings in even more unusual sounds. starting off with an aboriginal style of strings that evolve into the the triangle being used wonderfully rather than for a childish joke. The song continues this evolution right the way through, adding strumming guitars, gongs and gentle cymbal taps in to an excellent blend.
Klid moves back into the more traditional sound that is familiar by this point in the album. Moving back to a safe style of thumping drums, strumming guitar and Marek Dusil singing his heart out with absolute joy.
Daleko stands out amongst its peers for a stark reason on the album, the minimal use of drums and percussion, trading them in and letting the guitar carry it through. Couple this with a smaller focus on lyrics and you get a track that gives the full spotlight to the guitar.
Mráz nad řekou picks up the rasping percussion once again. Pulling together the twinkling sounds that give a fairy tale aspect to a variety of tracks on the album. It starts to show that Marek Dusil Blend has been working with a limited amount of instruments, reflecting the DIY style in a way that makes you realise that all these sounds are coming from a small scale production.
Ricardo serves as the penultimate track on the album, and it once again mixes the sounds that you’ve already heard together into something new. Bringing in the funky bass but keeping it off in the distance. Utilising the rattling percussion to lay the backdrop. Although the standout is the steady acoustic guitar solo that acts as the finale.
The true finale of the album brings everything full circle with Karlsbad II. A track that acts like a reprise of the opening track.
It gives each and every instrument a time to shine, letting guitar, chimes, percussion and vocals all take the spotlight together, working in unison to take a figurative bow to close out the album.
To conclude Karlsbad is an exploration of folk music can do, and how a limited budget inspires true creativity with the instruments you have. Though all but one track is in Czech, the album is relatable and accessible in a way that’s truly surprising.