Despite being totally unfamiliar with Eastern European folk music, I was immediately impressed by the distinctive and compelling vocal style of Ukrainian duo Astarta, (Inna Sharkova and Yulia Malyarenko) when I first heard their music on a trip to Kiev, Ukraine whilst visiting to perform a concert with with Ex-Wise Heads in early 2012.
It was an easy decision for me work with them on some of their material, which has a strong foundation in Ukrainian folk elements, and which is proving to be a rewarding and fascinating thing for me to discover. After having been involved in so much instrumental music, it makes an illuminating contrast to focus on songs and vocals.
The pieces we've been working on together, under the name Astarta/Edwin, is certainly accessible and has both moody, mysterious atmospheres as well as raucous, earthy and even humorous elements as well.
The music has also benefitted greatly from the input of some exceptional musicians, namely US experimental/ambient guitarist Jon Durant (my Burnt Belief partner), UK classical violinist Steve Bingham (No-Man) and the legendary US drummer Pat Mastelotto (King Crimson).
At the time of writing, the Astarta/Edwin album is work in progress, but we have so far undertaken two successful full live line-up performances, at the Krayina Mriy World Music festival in Kiev in July 2013, and London's first Ukrainian Cultural Festival "Days of Ukraine" in October 2013.