The second studio release of Croatian band Doringo, Gužva u Svemiru is described by the band as their first venture into a form of world music they are calling ‘geographical rock’, or geo-rock. It’s an interesting premise, certainly, and apparently comes from the fact that all the band members are from an urban environment and, inspired by excursions and travel to gigs, wish to translate those journeys through wilderness (real and imagined) into their performances. The idea is that over half an hour or so, Doringo will take us through various geographical areas, from the beauty of Croatia, to the Far East. I’m not convinced, though, because apart from Kineska Movara (the Far East portion of the album), everything else that I can work out, or have found out, appears to be situated in Croatia. The album name might translate as “Crowded Universe”, but the inspiration seems closer to home – not that there is anything at all wrong with that!
For much of the information I can find, and for the track titles, I am relying on Google for translation, so I could well be wrong at times. Thus, the album opens with a track that might translate as something like “Network Circuit”, and which I imagine represents the touring circuit the band might play on. The band describe it as surf rock inspired, but to me (and probably my parochial bias) it sounds more to me like the jingly-jangly indie rock style of the so-called Dunedin sound than any US surf rock. Throughout this opening number there are passages I could well imagine being played by The Chills, The Clean or The Bats, although admittedly these are jazzed up fully and completely. The saxophone of guest musician Mak Murtić plays as integral a role in the piece, as the jingly-jangly guitar of Doringo. This is a fantastic opening number that really drew my attention.
The following number (“Community Sight”?) is much faster-paced and is more funk than jazz, with a very strong bassline from Mihovil Jurdana and some gorgeous bass clarinet from another guest musician, Aldo Foško. I am assuming we are still travelling locally at this stage, still on the community circuit – but the next track overtly takes us to the Far East. Even if I did not find the translation of the title to be “Chinese Swamp”, and Doringo had not let us know of their intentions with their geographic rock, the play on the so-called Oriental Riff leaves the listener in no doubt. Happily, it is integrated, perhaps I would go as far as to say assimilated, into Doringo’s sound so that it actually sounds natural, rather than the stereotype it could easily fall into. It feels more like cultural appreciation than cultural appropriation.
The funk is back for “New Drab”(?) to close out the first half of the album. Where in the world we are, I’m not sure. Given that this is similar to the second track, maybe we are back in Croatia? I suspect this is the case, as the next song, “Roman Salad”, is inspired by the Roman roads that lead up to and into the Velebit – the largest, though not the highest, mountain range in Croatia. Aldo Foško is back with his bass clarinet, and it’s even more gorgeous than before. This is most definitely my favourite track on the album. I absolutely love it.
“Vrlika” (presumably named for the Croatian town) has some lovely, scratchy violin from yet another guest musician, Lucija Stanojevi. This track sounds more like we’re travelling through time than through space. Rather than far away, we’re going far back. It’s an extremely pretty track, with the olden time atmosphere enhanced even more when final guest musician Arjen Ridanović comes in towards the end on acoustic guitar.
“Single Phase Counter”(?) is perhaps the most distinct track. Everything before, even with the inclusion of a play on the Oriental riff, has had a common sound, and to me this one sounds a little out of place. That’s not to say it’s not good. It’s actually very enjoyable, and I like it a lot – but no matter how many times I hear the album, I feel like this does not belong. That said, I’d love to hear a whole album that sounds like this!
We’re back to normal with the following, and final, track of the album. Interestingly, this is the only one with an English title (Blue House). I love the electric guitar on this, and its light and summery, optimistic tone. I love Damir Mihaljević’s drum solo, before the guitar returns with what is probably the closest to surf rock the album has to offer.
Overall, this album exemplifies why I don’t usually bother with genres. The band has made up their own, which is their take on world music – itself a fairly meaningless genre label. They have labelled themselves as surf rock, which is something that rarely appeals to me, and which this album never really sounds like anyway. At times they have a similar sound (or if not sound, attitude) to a lot of bands that call themselves folk, or indie-folk. That and jazz fusion are probably the best way to describe Doringo, but overall they have created a fairly unique sound, and it is one I really enjoy. Ultimately, I am not convinced about the way the band describe their music, but I am utterly convinced by the music itself. Both Gužva u Svemiru, and their previous studio album, are available on their Bandcamp as free downloads. What are you waiting for?
01. Mrežni Kolo (4:13)
03. Privid Zajedništva (3:11)
04. Kineska Movara (3:32)
06. Drabo Nuevo (3:21)
07. Rimska Salata (4:04)
08. Vrlika (4:57)
09. Enofazni Števec (3:53)
10. Blue House (3:52)
Total Time – 31:21
Doringo – Guitar
Mihovil Jurdana – Bass
Damir Mihaljević – Drums
Mak Murti – Saxophone (track 1)
Aldo Foško – Bass Clarinet (tracks 2 & 5)
Lucija Stanojević – Violin (track 6)
Arjen Ridanović – Acoustic Guitar (track 6)
Record Label: Independent
Country of Origin: Croatia
Date of Release: 8th January 2020