RELEASE DATE: March 17 2017
LABEL: Invada Records . FORMAT: CD/DL/LP
CATALOGUE NUMBER: NV165
“I chose the path of greatest resistance for my music voluntarily”, admits Mario Batkovic. Batkovic is a Swiss, Bosnian-born accordion player who’s on a mission to expand the possibilities of the instrument to its very outer limits. Through the accordion he’s been able to channel an unbound desire to explore and express, a freedom that he has been denied through the various physical, social, cultural, and political borders that have existed in his life.
The longest road is often most rewarding, and through Batkovic’s restless searching and anarchistic approach to accordion music, he’s carved his own place as an indefinable but intoxicating musical entity. His music criss-crosses between classical and contemporary, often featuring many classical cadences and harmonies, yet is also interlaced with less conventional sounds by using the instrument percussively and draws from minimalism.
When Geoff Barrow (Portishead) was introduced to Batkovic’s music, he immediately realised both its musical and technical proficiencies, as well as its sheer uniqueness. Batkovic was subsequently invited to support Beak on their 2015 tour and then signed to his record label: Invada.
Geoff began working with Batkovic in the studio, encouraging him to write in new ways and opening doors for new musical directions. And the finished product, is a manifestation of this. The album is encompassing in its moods and sounds, for example drawing on a restlessness and urgency that can be found in the album’s opening track Quatere, yet delivering something entirely polarized in the following piece, Gravis, a long-arching ballad that canters mournfully into the mist. It’s often hard to pinpoint any clear styles, and Batkovic refuses to be pigeonholed. Restrictus is at times a collision of Philip Glass and Vivaldi, while a few bass-lines could easily feature in a Mozart sonata; other passages are cinematic and others tense and dramatic – all in one track. Inuente opens with just the clicking sounds of the mechanical buttons, while Batkovic teases out quiet subtleties in the tonal production. He makes full use of the accordion as a distinctive, expressive sound world, yet transmutes its melancholic character in imaginative ways – such as in Eloquens and Semper, or the yearning album closer Somnium.
“The album doesn’t want to submit itself to anything other than its sound. That’s the essence. Absolute submission to the sound. I’m the slave of the tones”
Batkovic presents a holism in his music that draws on the full capabilities of the instrument. This is reflected in quite a staggering range of pitch, volume and timbre that the instrument is able to produce, something that Batkovic exposes gloriously for the first time ever. However there are also subtleties in the production of the album that also make it a technical and aesthetic triumph. Batkovic wanted to translate the true sound of the accordion for the audience, in terms of representing exactly the way it sounds to him while he’s performing. It took over a year to solve the problems regarding the audio engineering of the album, but this now means that the stereo image opens up a whole new sonic spatiality, immersing the listener in a vivid and intricate sound-space.
“I wanted all of the instruments breathing, air noises and the sounds of flapping of claps to be audible. So the handicaps of the accordion can be transformed into benefits, creating a new sound”
1. Quatere 2. Gravis 3. Semper 4. Restrictus 5. Ineunte
6. Desiderii Patriae 7. Eloquens 8. Machina 9. Somnium
“Batkovic’s debut is soulful and stirring stuff.” 8/10 - Crack
"a gripping, edge-of-your-seat experience... on accordion!"- 8/10 - Clash
“a stunning marvel of see-sawing melodies and warm wheezes.” - Rolling Stone
“Bosnian-Swiss lighting-conductor drags humble accordion screaming into futurity.”- Mojo
“a highly accessible, yet uniquely singular work, whose reach is far greater in scope than the sum of its parts” 4*- All Music
Featured in The Line Of Best Fit
Featured in The Quietus
Played by Mary Anne Hobbs (BBC6 Music), Kathryn Tickell, Max Reinhardt and Nick Luscombe (BBC3)
Mario Batkovic is a Swiss virtuoso solo accordion player born in Bosnia. His playing can be challenging and experimental, yet it maintains a masterfully beautiful quality. He scratches every nuance out of the instrument, integrating scratches and clicks into the arrangements and making a feature of the kind of tonal scars and birthmarks which are usually eradicated from recordings and live performances.
At times the playing sounds like low end distorted feedback, at other times like an obscure analogue synthesiser. But the common thread running throughout is the quality in the writing and arrangement, and Batkovic's mastery of this instrument.
When Batkovic was in his teens, he spent several years experimenting with his instrument, on its own, without any effects. Through these experiments he learnt how to listen to one tone, realising that in this one tone can be found a world of music. In the end he chose the harder path, understanding there was nothing which could make the sound of the instrument as good as the instrument alone.
He now sees his mission as an advancement in the sonic possibilities available to the instrument, and in the communication of these sounds. Batkovic leans on no styles of music, and is not comparable to any one style, instead connecting different musical worlds and distilling them into one unique concentrated sound. As an artist he has had to play as many different styles as possible throughout his life to enable him to find his own sound.
He is a fully established artist in Switzerland, working for many different musicians as a producer, as well as being involved in many bands and projects. Batkovic was awarded the Artist Recognition Award from the Capital in Canton Bern where he has his own studio and runs his own record label. He is also highly regarded as a film score composer, with many of the projects he has worked on being nominated for and winning various awards.
Batkovic studied under Prof. Elspeth Moser at the renowned HochschulefürMusik and Theatre in Hannover, Germany, and went on to graduate as a Master of Arts in Chamber Music Improvisation in the MusikAkademie of Basel, Switzerland. He was always in opposition. At the music school he missed the anarchic side of playing in bands, and when playing in bands he missed the classical perfectionism of the HochschulefürMusik.
After having his music introduced to Portishead's Geoff Barrow, Batkovic was invited to support Beak on their 2015 UK tour. On the strength of these performances, Barrow then signed him to his record label, Invada and subsequently worked with Batkovic, writing several tracks with him that feature on the album.