Mario Batkovic Mario Batkovic Invada Records
If – like me – you can count the number of solo accordion albums in your collection on one finger, then the latest release on Geoff Barrow’s Invada imprint is a pretty mind-blowing place to start.
Mario Batkovic is a Bosnian musician who specialises in intense, otherworldly accordion compositions. His self-titled debut album (completed with the explicit aim of pushing the instrument to its absolute limits) is a unique, dramatic, unsettling and astonishingly vivid set of solo performances. Naff ‘Balkan Beats’ this is not – the sonorous, horizon-scanning keys and melodrama of Nils Frahm is a much closer reference point. Epic opener Quatere sets the pace – Batkovic moves from distressed chirps to foreboding groans, with every wheeze and gasp of the instrument harnessed for either a rhythmic or melodic purpose. The next track – Gravis – creeps along like a disfigured marching band: broken, cinematic and darkly joyous. The changes of gear are at the heart of the album’s appeal – just as a somnambulant section lulls you, a surge of energy erupts from Batkovic’s hands and the song is somewhere else entirely. The centre-piece of the album is the grandiose Inuente, a weighty, panoramic sweep through a sonic range that it is difficult to believe comes from a single instrument. A leftfield offering for sure, but it’s much more than a ‘curio’; Batkovic’s debut is soulful and stirring stuff.