Words by Simon Broughton
Although Efrén López is Spanish-born, he mostly plays various types of Turkish saz and tanbur (long-necked lutes) as well as guitar, santur (dulcimer), hurdy-gurdy and other instruments. The disc opens with the dark and powerful ‘Kurtoğlu Zeybeği’, a Turkish dance that López apparently wanted to be ‘so slow that each bar lasts a week.’ Thankfully it’s speedier than that, but it has a weighty gravity contributed by a davul (barrel drum) played by López and Cretan lyra from Kelly Thoma. It’s followed by ‘Plaerdemavida’ (Pleasure of my Life), dominated by the haunting, breathy sound of a multi-tracked ney (flute) played by Christos Barbas.
If the music on this rich and beguiling album comes from anywhere, it’s from the Labyrinth workshops created by Ross Daly in Crete, dedicated to the study of the world’s modal musical traditions – and that’s certainly a hallmark of quality. The flamenco-inspired ‘Como al Pie del Suplicio Estuve’, sung by Raúl Micó, begins with a spectral melody on Cretan lyra played by Stelios Petrakis, with whom López appeared at the first Songlines Encounters Festival. One of the real showcases of long-necked lute playing is ‘O Gios tou Lykou’ (Son of the Wolf), which features López playing four different instruments. This album is bursting with musical imagination and sublime instrumental playing – with the amusing stories behind each of the pieces provided by López in the booklet.