If you have heard the ensembles of Ivo Papasov, Yuri Yunakov or BalkanMessenger, you're already familiar with the accordion wizardry of Neshko Neshev. If you know the albums by Turkish violinist Nedim Nalbantoglu, you'll know about the equivalent squeeze box magic of Robert de Brasov. The bluntly titled Bulgaria album showcases this dazzling style of accordion playing in solo format, accompanied by bass, percussion and keyboards. Peter Ralchev has played with the famous Orpheus Orchestra, founded the Thracians Orchestra with clarinetist Delcho Mitev and has performed with Ivo Papasov and violinist Dimitar Trifonov. He's toured the US with the Bulgary quintet, recorded with the German group Batoru, participated in Jazz and accordion festivals and conducted a male choir of Orthodox chants.
Bulgaria spans a vast array of musical styles, all of them dizzyingly chromatic, confoundingly complex and rhythmically complicated. Much of it is like fractal geometry, fast zigzag runs liberally sprinkled with trills careening through unrelated minor modes in that peculiar melancholic way of the Balkans. Like Bulgarian wedding music, much of it occurs at hyper speeds, with folk dance motifs woven into abstract pyrotechnics. There are completely unexpected time shifts, wildly shifting 7/8 accents, Parisian musette echoes and thematic circles spinning off-centered inside larger circles.
This is not easy listening by a long shot. These are high-level gymnastics distantly related to Free Jazz except that here, there are tight harmonic and rhythmic structures. Like a faceted Feng-Shui crystal rotating in the sunlight, they simply flash so rapidly that they become nearly impossible to neatly dissect into individual constituents. But this music isn't just a blur. It's immaculately executed. It simply occurs at predominantly unearthly speeds. There are exceptions, however. "Romanian Lautari" is a Gipsy Swing number such as you'd expect from Stochelo Rosenberg while "Valse Musette" is exactly what its name suggest, still filled with devilish technique but nearly casually employed within the melodic framework.
"Like our Colleagues from Serbia" is a bouncy one-two dance where Ralchev performs complex chordal runs to sound like at least three instruments, even more so since he distinctly changes timbres by making some on-the-fly adjustments to the registers of his Weltmeister. For nearly one hour, Bulgaria gives us a crash course in the no-mind headspace Peter Ralchev must inhabit when he performs and composes. This stuff is simply way far-out and an example of peak virtuosity applied in ways that are foreign to strictly Western ears but simultaneously hypnotically fascinating - to some. My wife calls it simply "nerve-wrecking". I beg to differ. You may not. Proceed at your own risk then. Either way, this shit's potent.