Denver collective refines its earth-encompassing sound
Lauded for the ability to pluck and embellish elements from the musical heritage of Eastern European and Latin American folk traditions, DeVotchKa continues to refine its gift of blurring musical geography. While A Mad and Faithful Telling—the band’s first album of all original material since 2004’s How it Ends—doesn’t exactly break new ground, it offers a much fuller realization of dynamic and structural sensitivity. Due in large part to the underscoring of Shawn King’s distinctive percussion, the unique songs carry the band safely away from world-music clichés. The tightly organized Mariachi-meets-Balkan instrumental “Comrade Z” showcases the band’s musical proficiency, while the promenading “Blessing in Disguise” highlights the developing vibrato of singer Nick Urata. Once a distraught warble, Urata’s voice sits well within Telling’s balladry, but it struggles languidly in the urgency of songs such as “Transliterator.” These moments of misdirection are rare and, as exemplified in “The Clockwise Witness,” when the strengths of the group coalesce, the results are stunning.