Every cinematic adventure deserves an overture, in this case strings, delicate as butterflies that pair up with tentative piano chords that grow more assured as the song progresses. Rhythmic acoustic guitar, buried at first, becomes pronounced, matching the cadence of percussion that has gradually become discernable. Finally a voice, passionate, romantic, and a bit other worldly caps the mounting emotions of “The Alley,” the opening track of 100 Lovers. Step into the world of Devotchka and their indefinable, genre-leaping music. Are they pop rock, world-folk, cabaret or romantic balladeers? Yes, and that’s only the beginning! Devotchka’s wild mix of musical influences sweep from the Slavic nations to the Greek Isles, to the nomadic dances of the Romani peoples, to mariachi horns – intersecting at the cross roads of punk and folk.
When we last heard from Devotchka they were riding a wave of publicity thanks to their songs taking center stage on the sound track of the indie hit film Little Miss Sunshine. The spotlight was a new experience for a band that originated as the backing musicians for a burlesque show. The past several years have found Devotchka performing in Poland, Istanbul, and Belgium where their music found passionate followings. In Paris they performed to a huge crowd as the opener for Muse which proved to be a challenging experience. As songwriter and lead singer Nick Urata put it, “when you are standing naked up there, in the clutches of an attention challenged audience, you find out immediately what works.
Following the end of that tour Urata and company headed into the studio to record 100 Lovers with producer Craig Schumacher whose previous work includes Neko Case and Calexico. The album has an expansive sound that reflects the vast Arizona desert where it was recorded. The ten songs feature long build ups and limited lyrical content. With so much going on in each track it’s necessary to have time to contemplate the layers of sounds swirling around you. Devotchka’s four band members are supplemented with a multitude of guest violins, violas, cellos, trumpets, a children’s choir, and other odd instruments. Meanwhile the band offers their own unique instruments choices including but not limited to Jeanie Schroder’s Sousaphone, Tom Hagerman’s Melodica and accordion, Shawn Kings expansive use of percussive instruments, and Nick Urata’s theremin and bouzouki.
100 Lovers takes you on a wild musical ride through the Arizona desert to Mexico, to middle European villages. The music is mostly upbeat, often rousing, and exotic. The songs layered textures benefit from the time that Urata and bandmates have allowed. Never a band to work quickly, Devotchka took their time with these song, letting them slowly simmer at low burn in the studio for the better part of a year. It is album best listened to multiple times in order to grasp the many nuances built into the production.