The Mystery of Seven Stars is Pretoria-based but Poland-inspired Fulka's first album. But there's very little of the influence of provincial Snor City that mark this existential journey, dealing with mythical themes of redemption and hope, of fragility and decay.
Fulka's drawcard lies in their clever merging of electronica and folk, making not only the often intimidating aural landscape of electronica palatable to listeners, but using it to showcase the complexity inherent to the seeming simplicity of the folk genre.
Tracks such as Misunderstood and The Bear Song are particularly good examples of this eclectic marriage, and the juxtapositions continue in the trajectory of struggle which marks most of the songs' lyrics. In fact, thematically the album seems to deal with humanity's inability to understand the paradoxes that undergird their transient stay in an often hostile world. But Fulka never lapses into nihilism or despair – instead there is a sense of light laced through the album, of different, better worlds, or simply of repair of that which is broken. This ties in with the band name, which not only reflects the music's folk strains, but which, interestingly enough, in its original Proto-Germanic context, means host of warriors, emphasizing a need to fight for that which is true. All this could sound as if Fulka take themselves way too seriously, but a sense of the playful and the fun remains, as evidenced by the last track, which consists of leadsinger Ola Kobak's childhood ramblings of Polish folk rhymes.
It's somewhat sad that these Polish influences of Kobak's background as first-generation Polish South African are not further explored in the album, but is perhaps something which will come to fruition in later work. All considered, a thoughtful and well executed debut, which should satisfy both electronica enthusiasts and folk aficionados alike, or even just those stumbling on the road less travelled.
By Anjo-marí Gouws
released October 11, 2010
Fulka is Ola Kobak, Jacob Israel, Corné Roodt, Christian Henn and Jean-Louise Nel.
Music, arrangements and lyrics written by Ola Kobak.
Additional arrangements: Viola by Jean-Louise Nel on 'Dancing In Our Darkest Days' and Banjo by Corné Roodt on 'Misunderstood', 'Kawdesh Erets' and 'Adam'.
Produced by Jacob Israel & Ola Kobak.
Mixed and recorded by Jacob Israel at Benjamin, Pretoria, South Africa. www.benjaminstudio.co.za
Mastered by Rogan Kelsey at Lapdust Audio Mastering in Johannesburg, South Africa. www.lapdust.com
Illustrations by Cindy Tomczyk. www.cindytomczyk.com
Design, art direction and layout by Ola Kobak.
All instruments played by Ola Kobak except the following:
Marcus Wyatt: Trumpet Solo on track 1.
Zbyszek Kobak: Trombone on track 4, 9 and 10.
Janus van der Merwe: Double Bass on track 7.
Corné Roodt: Banjo on track 1, 2 and 8.
Jean-Louise Nel: Viola on track 1, 3, 5, 8 and 9.