FolkWorld #44 03/2011

CD & DVD Reviews

Kitus "Après l'After"
Own Label, 2009

Article: Connecting 100%

From Lyon in eastern central France, this quartet has a modern acoustic sound - push-pull accordion, flute, fiddle, bouzouki. Kitus plays a range of French-influenced music from traditional polkas and bourrées to Bach to the band's own compositions. Some of the melodies are familiar - Frederic Paris' Adèle Blanc Sec, a version of the 3/4 bourrée Pierre Laboura, the traditional Polka de la Limagne and more. Others are welcome strangers: Christine Demonteix' charming mazurka On a Bien 5 Minutes, the tremendous traditional Polka de St Maurs, and many Kitus originals.
Yannick Guyader is a formidable box-player, the pumping heart of Kitus and the creator of several pieces here: the vibrant scottiche Ladeuil, the powerful bourrée L'Artifice, and more. Fiddler Luc Roche is always in the right place at the right time: his slightly raw style fits perfectly into the Kitus sound, and stands out on his own tune Florine. The contribution of Fabien Guiloineau is equally crucial. Playing guitar and bouzouki, he wrote three of the melodies here: two fine jigs En Haut du Col and Encore une Nuit à l'Auberge, as well as the beautiful Mazurka de St Alyre. The flute is an enigma. I thought at first there were two flautists. Perhaps there are two instruments. At times Sylvain Vuidart is assured and fluent, as on the opening Marsillat or the dark swirling La Bussière. At others, the flute seems unfocused: En Haut du Col and 25c rue Morel are examples. However, when he's on song - as in the final pair of his own compositions - Vuidart's playing is phenomenal.
There's a Quebec feel to many tracks, maybe from the instrumental line-up or from personal taste. There's also the ghost of a hurdy-gurdy at times - perhaps in the combination of raw fiddle and rhythmic bouzouki, perhaps invoked by the melodies, the inescapable essence of central French music. Kitus have been around for more than ten years now, and if they continue to conjure the spirit of this music I'm sure they will see out another decade.
© Alex Monaghan

Rowan Leslie "Itchy Fingers"
Own label, 2010

This teenage fiddler from Antrim has developed a very straight, simple, raw atyle which is quite a contrast to the flowing ornamented technique of Clare-influenced youngsters, yet different again from the driving rhythmic fiddling of Donegal, Canada and many Scottish styles. Having travelled in Ireland and beyond, Rowan Leslie still sticks very close to the roots of his music. This is due in large part to his teacher Johnny Murphy, who duets with Rowan on two tracks here. Even on a showpiece such as Mouth of the Tobique, Johnny's style is sparse and controlled, with little to distract from the melody, and Rowan follows suit. There's no shortage of technique - the nuances and niceties brought into Cronin's Hornpipe show a master's touch - so this is a conscious decision to keep the music simple. Maybe some of that comes from playing for dance competitions, a great discipline. If I could offer two small bits of advice to Rowan, I'd say put a bit more bounce in the jigs, and finish each set with a bang rather than a whimper - but I'm sure he'll get there himself in time.
Rowan's repertoire is wide-ranging enough to include the dark modal compositions of Paddy Fahy alongside Ulster classics such as Cailleach an Airgid and Willie Coleman's. From further afield, Spoot o' Skerry starts an atmospheric trio of Scottish reels, each demanding in its own way, while Frank's Reel and Margaret's Waltz are two more showpieces which have crossed the North Channel. Johnny Murphy's composition Break Your Bow Arm leans towards the low brooding East Galway style, and Rowan's own slow reel Rosanne's shares some of the same dark beauty, as do his two quicker compositions which follow. There's a slow stately O'Carolan piece, one of the Bridget Cruise airs I believe, with some lovely piano work from Rose Murray who does a fine job as accompanist throughout. Otherwise, Rowan's music is fairly upbeat: Garrett Barry's Jig, The Congress, Mick O'Connor's, Maurice Lennon's great jig Aaron's Key, and the catchy title tune from the Scottish piping tradition. Itchy Fingers is available through Claddagh in Ireland: the rest of you may have to email for your copy.
© Alex Monaghan

Casey Driessen "Oog"
Red Shoe Records, 2009

Another recording from Nashville fiddler Casey Driessen, another pot pourri of power and passion. Like his previous album 3D, on Sugar Hill Records, Oog is a blend of bluegrass, blues, old-time and swing. But this time there's more. Most tracks take a step into the weird world of Casey's imagination, populated by screaming guitars and strange synthetic effects. Uncontinental Breakfast sees Casey dipping into the rich gravy of North African music, and there are touches of Latin and lounge music. Mr Driessen also provides vocals on several tracks, notably I'm Satisfied where he sings the entire lyric straight - almost.
Converation with Death is a real red-neck anthem, shades of Johnny and the Devil, with all the flash fiddling and electro techno you could want. The Day Before Hallowe'en continues this dark backwoods theme, and there's something equally unworldly about the dreamlike Rose Tea Waltz. The gradual return to earth in Ashland Breakdown is both a relief and a disappointment, but it's hard to stay sad when Casey follows up with the exuberant absurdity of Hunt for the Quail Egg. Now is an appropriate time to mention some of the sidemen on Oog, as they really come to the fore here: Matt Chamberlain on drums, Darrell Scott on guitars, and Viktor Krauss covering all the basses - remember him from the Harry Potter movies?
Flexible Hell epitomises Casey Driessen's music for me. Starting as smooth as any jazz swing song, the fiddle soon starts to get feisty - and then pandemonium breaks loose. For a minute we're in a land somewhere between Hazzard County and Elm Street, then a brief return to the swing tune with added weirdness, before a headlong dash straight into heavy metal madness. Fun or what? Tao Three returns to a gentler mood, Casey's 33 Seconds is breathtaking, and the final bonus track is a fiddle showpiece well worth waiting for. Casey's website is full of information and multimedia clips. Live versions of some tracks from this album and 3D are available for free download from his website - give it a click.
© Alex Monaghan

The Old Swan Band "Swan for the Money"
Wild Goose, 2011

It's comforting to know that in today's music world of studio-sculpted perfection and ethnic pick'n'mix there's still room for The Old Swan Band. Formed in the mid seventies, the heyday of English Country Music, this eight-piece outfit has retained its original blend of authentic English rural music with bits of brass and Britpop. From the decade which spawned bands such as Umps & Dumps, Flowers & Frolics, Gas Mark 5 and the English Country Blues Band, when much of England was listening to electric morris dancing, The Old Swan Band included such influential figures as Rod and Danny Stradling, Jo Freya and Fi Fraser. The Stradlings have long since departed, but Jo and Fi are still part of the band's core.
The Old Swan Band has been fronted by three fiddles since the eighties - a powerful sound, but I still miss the buzz and wheeze of the melodeon from their first LP. About half the material here has been recorded on previous albums, not necessarily with the same line-up. I definitely don't miss the rustic monologues which used to accompany the tunes: there are no vocals at all on this release, a boon indeed. Fans of the band will find their memories jogged by Walter Bulwer's, The Sloe, The Swedish Dance and other tunes collected in southern England. New additions come from farther afield: a couple of Clare polkas, the stirring Scottish march The Earl of Mansfield, and Quebec's La Grande Chaine which works really well on triple fiddles. There are also several of the band's own tunes, many (like the band itself) named after pubs: The Vine Tree and The Woodcutters may be familiar, Grommet less so.
The clash of the tambourine, the ringing of the triangle, and the sound of a shakey egg in the hands of a master: these are an integral part of the Old Swan Band's charm, just as much as the pumping sax basslines and the eccentric trombone harmonies. There's piano and whistles in the mix too, and the band seems to have broadened its sound to embrace all that was good about 1970s English music. For nostalgia, or just curiosity, if not for the outrageous pun in the title, Swan for the Money is worth a listen.
© Alex Monaghan

Folkcorn "Wie sal dan"
Own label, 2010

Twee violen en een bas "De graaf van Buuren"
Pan Records, 2010

Chimera "Uitgevlogen"
Own label, 2010

Well, this is going to be a very interesting review as three legendary Dutch folk groups have a new album released. Something to look forward to seen the fact that Dutch folk is still a rarely recorded style. In the series about Dutch folk which I wrote for Folkworld, I interviewed all three the bands, so even for you the names might sounds familiar. First of all the band Folkcorn.[25] A band that was founded almost forty years ago and is one of the last survivors of the golden area of Dutch folk during the seventies. The group kept on releasing albums during the past years and always in a constant good quality. This new one is called Wie sal dan and contains eighteen traditional songs and dances from the period 1500-1850 from known sources such as Oude en nieuwe hollantse boerenlietjes en contredansen. The sound will sound familiar to all of you following the band and the Dutch traditional folk in general. Accordion, recorders, guitar and percussion are the main ingredients and the voices of all four of the musicians. Although they use the accordion and guitar, I think Folkcorn is one of the few groups that stay close to the original acoustic atmosphere of the songs and dances. A nice new album which will be enjoyed by the lovers of the more authentic traditional style.
The second album is by the trio Twee violen en een bas you can read an interview with violinist Jos Koning.[23] Like Folkcorn, Jos Koning has been part of the golden area of the Dutch folk and played in groups such as Crackerhash and Perelaar. With twee violen en een bas, Konings plays with Niki Jansen on violin and Willem Raadsveld on bass. This new album I personally consider as a highlight in the career of Koning and the best album by Twee violen en een bas, until today. They focused on music from the eighteenth century which tells about the Dutch royalties. The seventeen tracks show a trio that is passionate for their music and through the years has created an own, highly professional sound. I love the combination of the two violins and the way Raadsveld supports the gracefulness of the violins with his deep sound of the double bass. Their choice of asking Sytse Buwalda, with his high pitched voice, to sing on two tracks, gives an extra dimension to the album. This is the more romantic, almost classical approach of Dutch traditional music. Played by musicians who are capable of putting the music in a historical perspective and doing this in such a way that brings them at the top of Dutch (folk) music.
The third album is from the legendary group Chimera.[36] They recorded two albums in the late seventies, early eighties, both considered as being a highlight in Dutch folk(rock). It is almost thirty years after their last album Obstakels and the past two years Bas Verkade, one of the founding members, kept telling me that together with his wife Marry Verkade, the other founding member, and their son Maryn Verkade they were planning a restart of the band. Occasionally a demo track was send by MP3 and suddenly this new album is there. Only 350 CD’s are made, so when interested you need to be fast. They can be ordered through the webpage of the band. The album contains nine new tracks, no remakes of old folk songs this time. Most of the lyrics are written by Marry and the music she wrote together with Bas. The trio is backed by Hans de Lange on drums and percussion. The first thing that you will notice is the recognizable voice of Marry, who sounds exactly like thirty years ago. Also the sound of the recorder with the strings played by Bas en Maryn, it all sounds very familiar and trusted. Somehow it really feels like a first new step, the recordings are not made in a professional studio and that can be heard occasionally and somehow I have the feeling that they feel a bit shy to really bring their music out in the open, which is understandable thirty years after the last output. But this album shows that Chimera has raised and is slowly finding a new balance and own sound. On this album you will find a few beautiful songs and tunes, still a bit unpolished, but very promising. Keep following this band as I’m full of confidence that they will surprise us in future, for now ... good that they are back!
© Eelco Schilder

Bandasud "Sudmusik"
Own label, 2010

Bandasud is an acoustic quartet from the south of Germany on ud, saxophone, flutes, clarinet, percussion etc. All compositions are original and are inspired of East European and Arabic influenced music. The main ingredients is however jazz and although the sound of the ud is always around, that doesn’t make this an ethnic jazz album. Some tracks are clearly influenced by folk themes and structures but as I wrote before, jazz comes before the ethnic aspect. The fine musicians do have a creative mind and try to give their music a special impulse. Sometimes that works and a few times I get the feeling they search to hard for something that isn’t there. A group with a promising sound but this album is not always balanced.
© Eelco Schilder

Ton Rulló I la Pegebanda "Menja I Calla!"
Temps, 2009

Easy going second album by this Catalonia based band formed around singer Ton Rulló. The quartet brings traditional songs from the region in a light modern setting, helped by a big bunch of quest musicians. Electronic possibilities play a big role in their music and create a friendly kind of traditional-rock. With stacks of slight electronic beats and Manu Chao-like arrangements, like in El pont de loes punxes, without being just another copy of this success formula. But also some more or less standard rock orientated songs like Lo cavaller sometimes with some slight Arabic and even some Caribbean influences. Menja I calla! is an album that tries to build a bridge between the old songs and modern times. It’s a good attempt but the musicians keep it very safe and stay close to known varieties as the earlier mentioned Manu Chao style, a reggae rhythm and sometimes a bit unnecessary added beats. This is such an album that, listening to some of the songs, I wonder if the music wouldn’t have been better without all these additions.
© Eelco Schilder

Jody Adams "Voices of Home"
Own label, 2010

The American singer-songwriter Jody Adams has always been surrounded by (folk) music and this Voices of Home is his seventh album in eleven years. He is a multi instrumentalist playing on this album the violin, guitars, piano, dobro and other strings. Backed by a bunch of fine musicians, he brings sixteen personal songs which reminds him, like the title suggests, of home. In the cardboard sleeve he explains for each songs why the theme is so important for him. Beautiful is Care of your brother which tells about the final words his mother gave him when she passed away. Each song has such a special story, beautifully sung and played by Adams. I like his warm voice and his acoustic music which is easy going and professional. It’s a personal document from a passionate musician who brings his message in a peaceful, harmonious way.
© Eelco Schilder

Kataya "Voyager"
Presence Records, 2010

The Kataya band is a Finnish trio on guitars, drums, keyboards and bass. They describe themselves as a folk-prog-ish ambient band. This is their second album and the fourteen compositions have a lot of spacey sounds, heavy guitars, beating drums and more electronic noise. It’s artificial music that sometimes shows wonderful melodies, but most of all seems to be composed to create some kind of dark, doom atmosphere. Sometimes that works. Not a folk album at all, please check the webpage and listen if this is your cup of tea.
© Eelco Schilder

Slagr "Straum, stille"
Ozella Music, 2010

No Border Orchestra "Arctic Cinema"
Own label, 2010

Seven years ago Hardanger fiddle player Anne Hytta, cello player Sigrun Eng and Vibraphone player Amund Sjølie Sveen founded the Slagr trio. They wanted to create a modern kind of chamber folk rooted in the Norwegian tradition, jazz influences and inspired by Steve Reich. I think that this is indeed a very nice description of their music. For three quarters of an hour the musicians create a beautiful landscape in sounds. Their minimalistic approach works very well, the beautiful Hardanger fiddle and cello melodies on the soft tones of the vibraphone, make this a true piece of ambient folk. The strong compositions all have their own character, but somehow belong to each other as well. It’s music to clear the head, music that might sound soft, but has a great impact on a man’s mood. This second album is a strong addition to the more alternative side of Norwegian folk.
Very different is the style of the No Border Orchestra, this North Norwegian orchestra unites musicians from all kinds of (European) cultures. The orchestra plays original and traditional tunes with a strong East-European vibe. The accordion and violin play a central role in the orchestration besides sax, cello, bass and percussion. The compositions blend not only several traditional styles, but also jazz with the folky influences. The orchestra plays at a high level and creates a bridge between North and East Europe. Their music goes from gentle, soft almost unhearable sounds, to an outburst of energy. A very nice album with uncomplicated crossover music by a very nice orchestra.
© Eelco Schilder

Shira Etana "Spiel Klezmer"
Norsk kulturråd, 2010

Klezwoods "Oy yeah!"
Accurate, 2010

Mishkale "Tanz tanz"
Own label, 2010

skaZka Orchestra "Farada"
Own label, 2010

Sirba "Strast"
Own label, 2010

Shira Etana is a Norwegian female quartet playing, as the title already revealed, known and lesser known Klezmer melodies. Playing in a standard, more or less, Klezmer combination with clarinet, violin, accordion and bass, the group plays a nice set of twelve tunes. They choose a more sober way of arranging the music and that makes this a melodic album with a peaceful atmosphere. The self made musical arrangements are simple and the solo parts do not always sound fluently. It’s like the musicians are a bit too shy or to careful, while I think this is a style that should be played energetically or with perfect control of the instruments. Shira Etana is getting there, but to my opinion, they miss this personal touch and need a bit more guts to make the music their own.
The second album in this Klezmer review comes from Klezwoods and is called Oy yeah. The band presents itself as a klezmer-jazz band and the nine musicians have found a very nice way of mixing Balkan, orient, Klezmer and jazz music into a well balanced and high quality kind of music. All ten tracks are their versions of traditional tunes and played in a kind of light klezmer-rock style. The band isn’t such an exploding brass group that we have so many of. Klezwoods play it more subtle and pay attention to the nice melodies. An easy going album that is pleasant to listen to without being to pretentious.
The third album comes from Italy and is called Tanz tanz by the group Mishkale. This sextet was founded exactly ten years ago and they play their interpretation of traditional and modern Klezmer and Yiddish styled compositions. World famous songs such as Dona dona and Kashene kalla Mazl tov stand side by side by modern compositions by artists such as Frank London and the Amsterdam Klezmer band. Their way of playing the tunes is very nice and especially in the solo parts you can hear the quality of the musicians. The play fluently and with hearable pleasure, but they choose to stay close to the known Klezmer sound. A very nice album with occasionally some fabulous craftsmanship but mostly just solid and easy going music.
The next one comes from Germany and is called the Skazka Orchestra. Their album Farada mixes Klezmer with ska , rock and Balkan a like beats. This band sounds like a circus act and plays with a lot of energy very danceable party music. Straight on, nothing complex just honest brass-move-your-feet music. Nice to hear the pleasure this band has in playing the music. They do this at a high level and is a nice addition to the many bands who play this style of music worldwide. Not renewing , but good fun and party.
The same can be said about the band Sirba, a German based quartet that plays Balkan/klezmer influenced music on sax, tuba, mandolin, guitar, accordion and percussion. The album contains sixteen traditional pieces, most of them very well known like Zikino kolo and Djelem djelem. They do this in a very nice way, they really try to capture the atmosphere of the melodies. The band shows some promising quality and sometimes dares to give their own twist to the music. But it’s all very careful and a bit more power or own identity will do the music some good I think.
© Eelco Schilder

Tara Fuki "Sens"
Indies, 2010

Tara Fuki is probably one of the best known folk related bands from the Czech Republic. I have followed the band closely since their great debut album and after a little bit disappointing third alb um, the duo is back with a fabulous fourth CD which I personally think is their best output ever. The two violoncello players recorded ten new compositions and sound more pure and inspired than before. Tobĕ is a wonderful opening song which shows the beauty of the instrument. It´s a mystical compositions, a kind of improvisation duet between voice and the violoncello. This track is followed by the sensitive Mojo serduszko which shows how the two musicians grew in composing. The title song Sens is much lighter in which the, almost African sounding, percussion plays a central role. Late night free jazz is the feeling of Wiosenna piosenka followed by the minimalistic song Moment. These songs show the variety of this album which ends with the sensitive song śpiew do snu which is the end of a wonderful album and a new highlight in the discography of Tara Fuki.
© Eelco Schilder

Vägilased "Kes aias"
Own label, 2010

I immediately admit that I never heard of the Estonian band Vägilased and I regret that as this live album shows I really missed something. A fresh, young and dynamic Estonian folk ensemble that plays with pleasure and passion. This live album, recorded at the Viljandi folk music festival in 2009, shows the quality of the band in seventeen tracks. Beautiful vocals are backed by professional folk musicians. The songs have a warm and sparkling sound, helped by the well chosen repertoire. The booklet contains English information about the songs, often groups from these region forget this. A wonderful collection of Estonian folk at its best and an album that is a strong addition to any Baltic/European folk collection.
© Eelco Schilder

Gankino Circus "Spielt das Potpourri
des Herrn Baron von Gunzenhausen"
Broken Silence, 2010

Wuppinger & l’Orchestre Europa
"Fais ton cirque"
Upsolute Music, 2010

Gankino Circus is a German quartet on accordion, sax, guitar and drums (and they do sing now and then). The band got quite successful during the years in their home area and this new album shows exactly why. Listen to the second track Der Papst lebt herrlich in der Welt and you get the spirit of this great theatrical band. Their brass-rock music really listens like a circus, from exciting, scary, and funny to beauty. Gankino circus plays in a raw, sometimes bit primitive way. They stay close to their concept and put all their energy, love and passion into their music. It’s these things that make this album so great. Different than many other brass bands, they follow their own course and paint great circus adventures with their music. Listen to the over ten minutes long Opus which is actually a small masterpiece which goes from heavy beats to crazy cowboy, Latin swing, Balkan to a dreamy bells and violin end. And it all fits and works, absolutely fantastic. The more I listen to this album, the more I get amazed by all the sounds this quartet produces and all the styles they combine. A bit compliment for this intriguing album, it fascinates and makes me curious to experience them live on stage.
Another circus act from Germany comes from the Wuppinger & l’Orchestre Europa. Their album Fais ton cirque is the third release by this band who gets their inspiration out of European traditional music from all the corners of the continent. After a spoken introduction by a kind lady the band starts to play and for a small hour they bring into the circus arena Irish dancers, Klezmer clowns, dangerous Mediterranean acrobats and a romantic Spanish rope dancer. All of this played by six strong musicians and songwriters who bring a totally different circus to town than their Gankino colleagues, but of the same high quality and with the same passion.
© Eelco Schilder

Scarazula "Balam kuk"
Sumgalomusic, 2009

The German band Scarazula started in 1983 as a trio and is now a much bigger gathering of musicians. This is their fourth album since the eighties and is a kind of 25th anniversary album and contains recordings from the period 2004-2008. With an international line up, the band plays musical theatre complete with costumes, dances and much more. Their music is deeply rooted in the middle ages and renaissance period. Several types of bagpipes play a prominent role in their music, mixed with fine (African) percussion, kora, recorders, lute and many many other ancient and more modern instruments. Besides the instrumental dances, the group sings old songs in harmony style. This album contains a few interesting pieces but is a bit inconsistent at moments. The switch between dances and songs is nice, but the kind of nature sounds imitations which give the atmosphere of a rainforest, somehow sound a bit strange between the Medieval and renaissance sounds. I think this must be a fantastic band to see live on stage. On CD, without the images, I’m sometimes surprised by their strong interpretations of the ancient songs and tunes, but can’t always follow the choices they made in repertoire and musical arrangements.
© Eelco Schilder

The Red Sea Pedestrians "Adrift"
Hey burner! Records, 2010

The Red Sea Pedestrians is an American sextet that likes to create a link between tradition and modern acoustic (more or less) music. This new album contains twelve new compositions all written by band members. This is their second full length CD which comes in a beautiful artwork booklet. The music is like a journey around the new and old world. Rooted in the many traditions of the USA, they pick up influences from the Balkan, Celtic areas, Yiddish musicians and so on. With a combination of strings (banjo, guitars, mandolin etc) accordion, clarinet, organ, piano and so much more, the band reflects the atmosphere of the first part of the 20th century radio music in a highly professional and refreshing way. With decent craftsmanship they sing and play like it should have sound on a big boat sailing the passengers from Europe to the States. A bit romantic, accessible and entertaining. A nice album with crossover music with influences from all those cultures that cross the ocean from Europe to start a new life in the ‘New world’.
© Eelco Schilder

Piirpauke "Koli"
Rockadillo, 2010

Piirpauke, for everybody who loves Nordic jazz folk this band is a monument in music. I bought their first three records second hand in Sweden about ten years ago and loved their sublime mixture of styles. Their eighties/nineties output never really caught me, but when I got the Sillat album, I regained my interest in the band and try to follow the band with new interest. For over 35 years the band has been active and recorded over twenty albums. On this new album which is called Koli the band goes back to the works of Sibelius, Tchaikovsky and traditional tunes besides very few new compositions. It’s amazing to hear how fresh this highly professional band sounds, even after more than three decades. A track like Kaustinen-Dakar shows their capability of mixing African sounds with beautiful saxophone solo and a tune inspired by Finnish traditional music. Their more psych side can be heard in a tune like Pippuripolska with great electric guitar parts and an atmosphere that reminds me of their best early works. This album shows Piirpauke is still alive and knows how to keep their music interesting with good choice of material, inspired craftsmanship and energetic musical arrangements.
© Eelco Schilder

Aranis "Roqueforte"
Home Records, 2010

Aranis is one of the most remarkable groups from Belgium at this moment. From their first album on, their music has a unique style and a very own identity. The group brings eleven new compositions all composed by bass player Joris Vanvinckenroye, to my opinion one of the most interesting Belgian composers and musicians in many years. With flutes, violin, viola, accordion, piano, guitar and a newly added drummer, Roqueforte turns out to be a quit serious listening experience. From complex heavy classical theme’s to soundtrack of a film noir. From theatrical, almost bombastic music to fragile and small melodies. From fragments of tango to pieces of a desolate circus orchestra. Impossible to describe this music that creates images, creates complete landscapes. Aranis turns my world upside down, not an album that is suitable for each moment of the day, this album needs time, a peaceful living room and a bit dark, windy and rainy autumn Sunday evening. This is modern Belgium acoustic music at its best.
© Eelco Schilder

Aurelia "The Hour of the Wolf"
Home Records, 2010

Three years after their Hypnogol album, the Belgian trio Aurelia is back with a fantastic new album. Aurélie Dorzée on violin and vocals and multi instrumentalist/singer Tom Theuns are back with drummer and percussionist Stephan Pougin. Ten new compositions and two covers are the basic ingredients for this best album until today by this trio. With wonderful melodies, creative twists and a balanced mixture of folk, world, craziness and rock, Aurelia takes the Belgian folk to a whole new level. I love Issa where a sweet melody turns into a small nightmare with great electronics and a drunken brother of Tom Waits who crawled on stage and sings along with the female singer. Great how the band switches from a song like that to El commandante which is a small, easy going acoustic folk tune and to chanson styled tracks like Le chat de la mazurka and Elle attend. And as easy they go back to a more psych output like Page which is followed by a beautiful version of Ave Maria sung by Laure Delcampe. With this new album Aurelia proofs to be one of the most inventive European folk related groups. They go further were earlier groups like Ambrozijn and Olla vogala left us, they have the same atmosphere, at moments the same recognizable sound but in a totally new context. Totally different than a group like Aranis, but with the same creativity and intensity. The Hour of the Wolf is proof again that a small country like Belgium is big in modern acoustic (more or less) folk related music.
© Eelco Schilder

Alpcologne "Alpsolut"
Westpark Music, 2010

Christian Muthspiel’s Yodel Group "May"
Material Records, 2010

From Cologne a very special quartet with four well-established musicians, Alpcologne. Three alphorn players and the Italian-American singer Victoira Riccio just recorded their second album with alphorn and vocal compositions only (well, more or less…do I hear some added light percussion now and then?). Not the most daily combination and seen the fact that the alphorn has a bit of a corny reputation you might skip this album when you see it in your favorite record store. That would be a pity because it’s one of the nicer alphorn related albums with rhythmic and melodic strong compositions in which shows some unexpected sides of this instrument. With Riccio, who has been part of the famous Schäl Sick Brass Band, as a theatrical singer this album is a mixture of folklore, jazz and modern alphorn beats. Interesting for those who are alphorn freaks but also for people who like to hear intriguing music played on an instruments that is not recorded in such a prominent way very often.
Let’s stay in the mountains for a while with Christian Muthspiel’s Yodel group, who recorded a totally different album than the group’s name might suggest. On May this trombone, piano player and vocalist forms a jazz group with five other musicians and they arrange Yodel compositions in their own way. A very nice project in which the melody line of the traditional yodels is replaced by instrumental breaks and lines. The result is a swinging jazz rock album with recognizable ethnic Yodel sounds, but with the vibraphone, trombone, trumpet, clarinet and flugelhorn taking over the front stage. Great for people who are not so found of the singing technique but love to hear the melodic hearth of the seven traditional pieces.
© Eelco Schilder

The Pickpocket Ensemble "Memory"
Own label, 2010

The Pickpocket Ensemble is not a stranger for me as I reviewed earlier albums by this California based quintet a few years ago. When I listen back to those albums I hear a terrific acoustic band with world influenced music that sounds fresh and well played. This is the group's sixth album with ten new compositions by accordion and piano player Rick Corrigan. The music is less outspoken than earlier output, that was my first impression. But when I hear this album more and more I notice that the sound got more compact and balanced. It still has world music influenced, but they manage to create more their own style of playing. It’s relaxed, friendly and well played music. No longer a band that has to proof something, but five musicians who are full self-confidence, experienced and know their possibilities and limitations. Fine acoustic music for a late evening relaxation or just to enjoy with your eyes closed.
© Eelco Schilder

Jarek Adamow "Ethnomalia Project"
Folkenmusic, 2010

SieGra "Memories of the Stone"
Folkenmusic, 2010

The Polish musician Jarek Adamov was one of the first Polish musicians who stole my (music) heart. In 2003 I got his Songs of the medieval Polish bards album and I got fascinated by the feeling of this wonderful album. What I liked is his capability to create a complete own style and a unique atmosphere without being a master on every instrument he plays. I remember from that album that his hurdy gurdy play wasn’t that good technically spoken, but I believed every note he played and found that he touched exactly the right tone and that is a unique talent. Now, seven years later, I have two albums for review with him as (one of) the central musicians and I just couldn’t wait to hear what he is doing at the moment.
The first one is his Ethnomalia Project on which he plays Polish klezmer music. On the album he explains that Polish klezmer is a totally different style than what we in the western part of Europe think it is. In Poland, he explains, Klezmer musicians are those who can play almost every style and not only Jewish music. He is backed by a guitar, bass guitar and drummer and Adamow self plays the clarinet and kaval. The CD starts with a naked kaval solo which is followed by beautiful melodic folk-rock with Russian, Polish and Jewish influences amongst others. I love his fluent way of playing and the easy going musical arrangements make this a very open album. Adamow doesn’t make simple things complicated, he plays a tune in his pure form and let the melody speaks for itself.
Besides this, more or less, solo project he is also part of the Siegra trio and with their Memories of the Stone this trio, which exists besides Adamow out of Robert Brozozowski on bass and vocals and Bartłomiej Stańczyk on accordion and vocals, plays music inspired by central European tradition. Polish, Yiddish and Bosnian traditional pieces are mixed with original compositions and recorded live at the Włodawa synagogue. The lightness I felt while listening the Ethnomalia album is totally gone now. Here is something totally different going on, this is a cooperation of three top musicians who bring a passionate tribute to ancient music and culture. Compliments for bassist Brzozowski who has to deal with two virtuoso solo musicians and does this with style and craftsmanship. His subtle way of playing the bass is essential for the sound of this group. He build the pavement on which the other two can trust and stand with both feet and play, just play. Listen to the nice symbioses of the instruments, the smart musical arrangements and feel the richness of their music.
© Eelco Schilder

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