Tom Cora, Iva Bittová, and Vladimír Václavek in bookletIndies Scope Records MAM055-2 | 1997 | Selected APE | 168 MB
Genre: avant-pop, folk, etno, postrock, czech language
Czech singer/violinist Iva Bittová and guitarist Vladimír Václavek join forces in a sparse exploration of voice and sound. Joined occasionally by Tom Cora on cello, Frantisek Kucera on trumpet, or children's sing-song voices, this is primarily duets both stark and expressive.
After a few years passed collaborating with drummer Pavel Fajt, Iva Bittová teamed up with Rale guitarist Vladimír Václavek to write and record the beautiful two-CD set Bílé Inferno (White Inferno). The singer remains true to her stripped-down aesthetics, keeping arrangements sparse, letting the songs show their power with as little embellishments as possible. Václavek's acoustic guitar and vocals are often enough to accompany Bittová's sensual (and very creative) vocals and violin playing. Tom Cora may add a bit of cello, Frantisek Kucera a touch of trumpet, or children some singalong lines. The songs are long, repetitive in a way similar to nursery rhymes. The mood is kept quiet, Bittová often whispering in our ears the words of lyricist Bohuslav Reynek. The childlike playfulness of "Kdoule" and "Moucha," the more defiant "Vzpominka," the overdubbed vocals at the end of "Zvon" -- all constitute highlights. Each song seems to be the result of a labor of love between the two protagonists, no detail having been left to chance. And yet, spontaneity permeates the album, mostly thanks to Bittová's many groans, shouts, yelps, and other strange exclamations and techniques she derives from Eastern European cultures and the playground. For a double album, Bílé Inferno is short. The total duration of 77 minutes and 14 seconds would have fit on a single CD, but -- and even though the price of this Czech import gets beefed up because of the two-CD status -- the idea to split the set in two works wonderfully. Listened to as one big chunk, Bílé Inferno would sound a bit linear, become tiresome, and lose part of its appeal. Taken in two helpings, it is one stunning piece of art. The label Indies made up for the short duration with lavish artwork and photographs. This is the Iva Bittová record, timeless and essential to any fan of Czech alternative pop/rock.