How confident are you in identifying international instruments? Here’s a test: score ten points for each accurate answer. Daf, ocarina, mizmar, balafon, ribab, guembri, tank drum, balafon, tampura brač, acoustic resonator. We write about music daily, and still had to Google most of these. Not only does Širom scour the land looking for unique instruments, the trio makes their own. As a result, their sound is connected to many nations at once, not distinctively Slovenian but Asian, Gnawan, and otherworldly. Add the intriguing cover image by Marko Jakše (shark, robot, alien?) and some colorful titles (“Wilted Superstition Engaged in Copulation”) and the overall vibe is like stumbling upon a remote village which developed at its own pace, native and technological, without outside interference: a real-world Wakanda.
Most people don’t have albums like The Liquified Throne of Simplicity in their collections, unless of course they own prior releases from Širom, which is in the midst of developing a signature sound; although the trio’s sound keeps changing. This release features only five tracks in 77 minutes, and starts with a piece that is longer than many EPs. At 20 minutes, the aforementioned “Wilted” is an ever-moprhing, hypnotic whirlpool, the right speaker percussion a constant while other variables swirl around it. Hurdy gurdy, frame drum, and other less conventional (yet easier to identify than the above) instruments make languid appearances, passing through on their way to other tracks. The sprawling piece combines tribal dance, psychedelic rock and regional folk, pausing briefly on drone toward the end, a house with many open windows through which a listener might crawl.
The trio’s stereo separation continues throughout the album, helping the listener to picture the performers in three dimensions. When Ana Kravanja starts singing wordlessly, one can point to her position in the room. A mini-tour, with stops in a stable, pasture and remote village, has been captured on film, further evidence of intimacy. The album’s first immersive moment arrives in the tenth minute of “Grazes, Wrinkles, Drifts Into Sleep,” as the instruments flood through the dam to fill every crevasse, chimes floating atop a churning river of sound.
We have stumbled into a village of sound. The villagers have instruments, but no bodies. They ride currents of air. Sometimes the instruments play them. The notes never fade, but slowly drift to the dirt, some taking root, others collecting in piles. Whenever a visitor disturbs the piles, the notes try their best to harmonize, but often fall short.
When the singer stops singing, the drums and chimes emerge. Welcome, visitor! Would you like a handful of rice? We are almost done recording it. There’s a fine line between mysticism and science fiction, and Širom walks down the middle. A mournful beast cries at 6:24 of “A Bluish Flickering” ~ the creature on the cover, or a member of a higher phylum? In the fourteenth minute of the same track, there’s time for a banjo solo; as if entranced, the creature returns, and this time it’s Ana who follows. Simplicity’s throne has officially been liquidized.
There’s only one track short enough to be a single (the second shortest lasting 16:02!), but “I Unveil a Peppercorn to See It Vanish” is a succinct summary, akin to a bite of the Caterpillar’s mushroom. Like Wonderland, The Liquified Throne of Simplicity is an place one wakes up from, the real world now seeming strange, eyes opened to alternate realities. (Richard Allen)