Archive | July, 2011

Atlantis/Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Za Vodou Za Horou (Trezor, 1969/1990)

8 Jul

Not much need for explanation in this hymn to a landscape, beautifully sung by Hana Ulrychova and – like Ticho initially recorded for Odyssea, the shelved 1969 debut LP by Atlantis and brother and sister duo Hana & Petr Ulrychovi (the LP finally saw the light in 1990 on Supraphon’s Trezor imprint, set up mainly as a home for the reissue of long-banned and previously unreleased titles from the label’s late sixties and early seventies catalogue). A version of the song recorded for TV broadcast in the early 70s can be seen here, and the original Czech lyric can be read here.

Za vodou za horou (For Water, For Mountains)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1969)

for water for mountains it slowly dawns
that water and mountains house singing birds
for water and mountains grant us views
for water and mountains sound with trains

you find the water-shadow of an innocent girl
ghost-herds and gold-mines goat-herds and grass

soft wedges and echoes flood the glassy hours
when light breaks on sleep and you calmly rise

for in water and mountains gods might live
for in water and mountains is soft grass grown
for in water and mountains it slowly dawns
that water and mountains sound with trains

in all these white distances your sleeping face
is all the innocence I’ll know or might hear sung

you trace a wet shadow at the river’s edge
a young girl’s footprint pressed in water on stone

for in water and mountains it slowly dawns
that water and mountains house singing birds
for water and mountains might grant us views
where water and mountains sound with trains

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Atlantis/Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Ticho (Trezor 1969/1990)

7 Jul

Something of an oddity from Hana & Petr Ulrychovi in this operatic and defiantly epic arrangement of a song with lyrics that are, to say the least, oblique. As always with material from this era, it’s likely that the obscurity is a deliberate strategy to evade censorship, though the song as a whole – musically, lyrically and in the film created around it on Czech TV in 1971 – is not dissimilar to equivalent efforts being made in the West at the same time, as psychedelia began to mutate into progressive rock and allusions to Homer’s Odyssey came to seem like suitable material for pop songs: it may be worth noting that Odessey & Oracle by The Zombies was released in Poland during 1968/9 and this may have reached Czechosovakia and have some loose bearing on the general sound and subject matter of Ticho. That title, Ticho (Silence), probably alludes to post-1968 censorship, though it’s not clear if this reading of the song had any relevance to Supraphon’s decision to shelve the record in 1969: given the existence of a TV version, perhaps not. An extended version of that 1971 TV film can be seen here and the Czech lyric can be read here.

Ticho (Silence)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1969)

And I lock the door, huddle in garbage, a thick cloak.
I pass into the cold light of a white place:
it is always quiet there when the snow lies soft.

Thoughts rush into pens like sheep; wastelands burn.
Snow steams as though the air is fried with words.
It is always quiet here when you talk too much.

And you express the old sentiments, clench your teeth,
say desire is life and life desire. You’re whispering:
it is always quiet. Don’t speak until the snow is gone.

Do you hear the waves on the sea? The water is mercury,
splits against the axe-head on the prow of your boat.
It has a sound like love and death – a major chord.

And you’re going mad. You think he broke his head,
don’t understand why some men wanted blood?
Did you find in the silence something strong in you?

So you breathe: It is quiet here, it is always quiet.
(It always seems quiet here when the snow lies soft).
And you breathe: It is quiet here, it is always quiet.

Hana a Petr Ulrychovi: Rozmaryn (Supraphon, 1970)

5 Jul

 13HP is officially the debut LP by Hana & Petr Ulrychovi, though it was actually the second album recorded by the duo, after the first, Odysseaa concept LP made with their regular band at the time, Atlantis was shelved by the State record label in 1969 and finally released only in 1990, shortly after the Velvet Revolution. Despite his prominent public stand against the invasion, Petr Ulrych was not, in the end, permanently banned from recording or performing, though he and Hana moved increasingly into explorations of Moravian folk music and away from the rock and beat music of their earlier period. 13HP is something of a transitional recording, featuring powerful material in both pop and folk idioms, and the opening song, Rozmaryn, ostensibly a love song, flirts with imagery that seems intended as a comment on the loss represented by the ending of the Prague Spring (some background on the Ulrychovis is available at Lou Kash’s excellent Funky Czech-In blog). The song itself can be heard here, and the original Czech lyric is available to read here.

Rozmaryn (Rosemary)

(after Petr Ulrych, 1970)

Spring came and the birds were nestled in green,
their songs could heal the wounded clouds.
The sun poured its blessings on my Rosemary’s skin.

There were shades of scarlet in the deeper blue
where shadows warmed her cascade of yellow hair.
I was sacrificed gladly on that altar of hers.

More birds, and more, came to sing in the trees
idling while I sang my Aves to the clouds.
This was proof. Spring was here: had promised to stay.

But I heard one passing bird in the leaves overhead,
its song might have been Dreamers or A Pilgrim’s Walk.
It sang loudest, a music-box whose levers turned.

Then all the bird-song sounded metallic and false
like a pendulum ticking in a grandfather clock.
I no longer basked in the light of my Rosemary’s face.

So I listened once more to those clockwork birds
wound tight in a music that sounded too thin.
Spring came and the birds were nestled in green.