Guitarist Goran Ivanovic was studying music in Salzburg when his Serbian father and Bosnian Croat mother were expelled from their disintegrating country. They all live in the United States now, but the music of Ivanovic's homeland is still on his mind. Seven Boats (Proteus) is his second studio encounter with another guitarist who's had a cosmopolitan childhood, Fareed Haque, and for the session, Ivanovic brought plenty of central European folk melodies. (Macedonian Blues was their first collaboration.)
This isn't an attempt at world-music fusion, however. The two players take their nylon strings seriously and keep this music set firmly in a classical guitar idiom. Tellingly, at the few points where the recording ranges, it's not with the addition of a clarinet or a sanguine dance number; it's with the inclusion of a Telemann arrangement and a Villa-Lobos tribute. The tunes are skillfully arranged and tightly played. The two guitarists almost never engage one another as soloist and accompanist, but choose to play interlocking parts of moving chords and tart melodies. The players are so well drilled that it's often impossible if not completely beside the point to tell them apart. More often than not, they sound like a single guitar player blessed with extra fingers. Seven Boats goes on a little too long, though. And for all its technical grace (or perhaps because of it), the disc suffers from a somber airlessness that only lifts briefly, for Haque's three solo numbers.