Tomáš Palucha, founded in 2012, are a band from Prague, the capitol of the Czech Republic. Today, the band has four members and is named after two of them, Jan Tomáš and Libor Palucha, most likely the founding members. I came across Tomáš Palucha only recently, because they have been announced as support for the great Czech post metal/post hardcore act Lvmen (okay, okay, also, my husband pointed them out to me and said I should give them a listen). I checked out their new album Čaro (“charm” in English) which was released by Czech Day After Records a week ago and I was positively surprised by the band’s unusual sound. The eight tracks – six instrumentals, two with lyrics – show a vast array of influences. You can hear bits of experimental, oriental, folk and ambient music in their very impressive version of post rock.

When I listened to the album for the first time I wondered how all these different musical influences related to a band from Eastern Europe, but then I had a look at the track list and things became a bit clearer. The first track of Čaro is titled Remus and the last track Romulus. The twin brothers Romulus and Remus were the mythical founders of the city of Rome and of what would later become the Roman Empire, with Remus being murdered by his brother Romulus or by one of his brother’s supporters, depending on which version of the story you consult. Romulus then went on to become Rome’s first king. Now, if you consider that at its greatest extent the Roman Empire spanned from the far west of Europe, over the Mediterranean and North Africa into Asia, the multitude of influences audible in the music of Čaro suddenly make perfect sense.

The album opens with Remus, featuring tribal drumming and experimental, looped high voltage sounds accompanied by lyrics consisting of only one line, constantly repeated, like a mantra. The track sets an eerie, cold, dystopian atmosphere of something oppressive and dangerous lurking in the background. The rather low, almost whispered vocals add to the mood.

After this opening that foreshadows something bad happening, the second track Ursiny takes you somewhat by surprise, because, at least in the beginning, the track’s atmosphere is completely different. The brilliant, energetic drumming and the hint of oriental music in the guitar playing create a goal-driven, positive, pro-active feel. Pretty soon, however, you can hear tensions going up, and we’re back on track to some extent. Ursiny is truly a fantastic piece of music and one of my two favourite tracks on the album (the other one being the last track Romulus).

The further the album unfolds, the more you get the feeling that a story is being told. In the folky track Nomad you can hear the wind sweep through the arid landscapes of North Africa or the Eurasian steppes. In Hrob Mouder, the fifth track, you can hear suspense rising, like something is about to happen. And it does, indeed: the next track, the shortest one on the album, is titled Schlaftrunk which is German for sleeping potion. After this follows Heavy Breathing, the only track with longer lyrics. The lyrics, in English, sound like instructions to a meditation, specifically a walking meditation. The narrator urges the listener to concentrate on the moment, on one single task, walking, and not to worry about anything else.

The album closes with Romulus, its second masterpiece. The drumming in the beginning and the end of the track makes a connection to the first track Remus and reminds me of war drums, evoking images of armies and soldiers. It is slow but rhythmic and steady, pushing forward. The really incredible guitar playing adds an additional, emotional layer to the sound and there is a mathematical precision in the execution of it all. Absolutely brilliant.

If you’re going through a musical dry spell, listening to the same old same old, desperately searching for something new, Čaro will put a smile on your face. Don’t let this album slip under your radar. You’ll be missing out. I’ve been playing it almost nonstop and will probably continue doing that for some time. I’m looking very much forward to seeing Tomáš Palucha with Lvmen and Emphasis in Zagreb.

(9/10 Slavica)