Saying that Winna by Tara Fuki is difficult to explain is a bit of an understatement. Each of the songs on the album are written for two cellos and two female voices, with influences ranging from classical minimalism to Eastern European folk songs to post-rock to Jonsi-style alt-pop. If that wasn’t enough, the lyrics are in Czech. All this comes together for this American listener to become something of an otherworldly missive: Winna sounds vaguely like things I understand, but mostly it sounds beautiful in a voice that no one had previously tried to speak to me.
There’s a lot of pizzicato plucking throughout the album, both on its own and as a contrast to flowing counterpoint. Sometimes the cellos are intertwined in a complex way; sometimes they compliment each other instead of playing off each other. At no point does the sound get cluttered; the duo have orchestrated their duets masterfully to make the sound consistent and pure. The band has previously used electronics to augment the sound, but with the exception of some wind chimes in “W twojej glowie,” they are totally acoustic on the album. The most complexity of the whole album comes in the finale of that tune, when both cellos, both vocalists and the chimes are going in opposite directions. It’s exciting, and it feels fresh.
“Lecimy” and “Dopis” are closest to traditional indie-pop song structures; it’s easy to imagine the perky-yet-restrained “Dopis” as a song that could fit in Regina Spektor wheelhouse. “Anna” starts off with a traditional-sounding folk vocal melody, then puts a yearning, keening vocal counterpoint over it. The song develops with some dramatic, scraping percussive work on the cellos, remaining a heavily vocal piece. It’s similar to things Julianna Barwick would create. The nine-minute “Zavrat” imposes the most post-rock influences, as the most production happens in this tune (reverb, found sound of rain, perhaps even some cello overdubs or incredibly complex individual performances). Its furious tone is internally consistent, and manages to fit in the context of the album.
Winna is an amazing album that confounds me with its beauty. It sounds like little I’ve ever heard before, which is a big compliment from a person who listens to music all the time. It’s a really powerful work that can be returned to over and over. If you’re into adventurous, experimental work that doesn’t delve into noise or abstract chord mashing, Tara Fuki should be on your shortlist.