Those of you who like their bowl of soul music cool, calm and with a pinch of raw funk here and there, would definitely find Ruth Koleva’s long-awaited debut LP Within Whispers (April 2011) the perfect fancy dinner supplement. Food associations aside, Within Whispers is one of the few good examples of what young and talented Bulgarian music producers are capable of despite the harsh rules of the local game.
Being a proud owner of high-octave (5 to be exact) vocal skills since an early age,
Ruth Koleva has gathered a noteworthy collection of musical experience performing for local as well as a variety of international audiences.
I don’t know what role recording with the legendary producer Martin Briley (the guy behind artists such as Elton John, Marc Anthony, *NSYNC, Daughtry); or improvising live on stage with Bobby McFerrin; or performing alongside dub legend Mad Professor have played on the album but these encounters certainly echo somewhere in the record. Having grown up with Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, James Brown, and Jill Scott undoubtedly breathes a jazzy flair into the soulful atmosphere. It’s not hard to then see Within Whispers as a recollection of influences which has transformed into Ruth’s own unique style.
With its percussive warmth and undulating basslines ‘4 Letter Word’ sets the tone of the whole album – easy-going and leaning more upon the slow-jam side of the bpm line. Almost in the middle of the album, ‘Baby’ breaks up the blue sequence with its festive, dancy mood reminiscent of some of Tru Thoughts’ great singles only to open the door for a heavy but playful bass guitar and Nufri’s sonorous voice in ‘You’re My’. ‘Blizo’ and ‘Zashto’ (‘Close’ & ‘Why’ respectively in English) disrupt the established faster groove by bringing back the softness of the album’s subdued vocals. Although in Bulgarian, both tracks have a global appealing. ‘Blizo’ throws a little percussive blues into the mix and is the perfect accompaniment to those rainy afternoons when love yearnings become most salient, whereas ‘Zashto’ stands out as my favorite down-tempo track of the record which I can easily mistake for one of Arts the Beatdoctor’s early sampled-beat gems minus the vocals, of course. The funky breakbeats in ‘Fever’ briefly revive the faster groove, while ‘Sunshine’ utilizes the sound of the soothing pianos to bring the record back to its starting point, or simply to nicely wrap up the story, sending the message that not everything is dark and gloomy after all.
Taken as a whole, the record is a great combination of passionate grooves which, along with Ruth’s versatile voice, blend into eclectic neo– soul nectar that has you sipping until the last drop. In my opinion Vitality Music, the record label backing up Ruth’s debut, should be really proud of their achievement since Within Whispers is a rare jewel in the current mainstream of mediocre, over-saturated with pomposity music that seems to be clogging up the Bulgarian market.