FolkWorld #47 03/2012

CD & DVD Reviews

Rapunzel & Sedayne "Songs from the Barley Temple"
Folk Police Recordings, 2011

It’s a real present to find an album like this in my pile of review albums. So many ‘neo folk, psych-folk’ albums are recorded now a days, but it’s not often that an album has the quality of this Songs from the barley temple. This no nonsense album by Rapunzel, on vocals, banjo, harmonium, guitar and frame drum , and Sedayne, on several strings, vocals and flute. This, to me totally unknown duo, has already recording a few albums with English traditional songs and ballads. They give the songs a fantastic new atmosphere, almost hypnotic, bit dark now and then. The tracks are recorded live, so without artificial over dubs, pure and honest folk music of the highest level. Played in the best neo-folk tradition. The duo performs as a complete unity, they bring out the best in each other and create a whole new world, fully according to their own ideas and dreams. Highly recommended for all who like English neo-folk, but will also be like by those who like a legendary singer as Shirley Collins, a great own sound, a unique way of interpreting the songs, but with the authentic feel.
© Eelco Schilder

Mili Bermejo, Eugene Friesen, Tim Ray & Dan Greenspan
"Love Songs of the Americas"
Own label, 2010

Christian Muthspiel’s Yodelgroup "Huljo"
Material Records, 2011

The first album in this Jazz related CD’s review is Love songs of the Americas, the debut album of a quartet of renowned (jazz) musicians. On this album they bring a collection of love songs from both North and South America. The vocals of singer Bermejo are nicely backed by Friesen on Cello, Ray on Piano and Greenspan on bass. It’s a melancholic album with occasionally beautiful pieces, deeply rooted in jazz and with touches of ‘world’ music. Especially Friesen’s cello play with this heartbreaking touch of sadness, professionally supported by piano and bass. An album by four musicians who know what they’re doing and clearly play and sing the songs they like and love.
From the USA to Austria. Christian Muthspiel’s Yodelgroup new album is called Huljo. Muthspiel and his band recorded a second album with traditional yodel compositions, all arranged by Muthspiel. Without vocals, the band brings out the beauty of the yodel melodies. This second album has a more laid back sound than their first CD, a little bit less wild and more focus on the melodies. It results in a really nice, sparkling jazz album deeply rooted in tradition. Sometimes terribly sunny and happy and on other moments moody and like clouded mountains on a cold winter morning. On this second album the band shows great progress and easily brings the yodel music to the next level.
© Eelco Schilder

Asketics "Asketics"
Sketis, 2011

Baraka "Tribute to Muboraksho"
Sketis, 2011

The first new album from the Sketis label is by the band Asketics. Normally when I get albums published on the great Russian Sketis label, they have a more Ethnic sound, but this one is rooted in the modern jazz rock tradition. Mixing jazzy melodies with folk theme’s, samples and electronic loops, the trio creates an intriguing album. Each of the eleven songs sound like a small story, like a description of an event or place somewhere on this planet. It has hasty accordion parts, haunting electric guitar parts, dancing beats, but also soft acoustic guitar sounds and much more. Intriguing album for those who like creative outburst of art jazz-rock.
The second album on my favorite Russian label is a very special one. Baraka are twenty musicians who bring a tribute to Muboraksho. Unfortunately no English information available on the webpage, but after some research I find out that Muboraksho Mirzoshoev was a known musician in Tajikistan. He died in 2000 at the age of 39. Despite his popularity he never released an official album while he was still alive. This 2011 album is a tribute to his life and music and includes covers of some of his compositions and a few original compositions. The fourteen recorded tracks are moody jazz compositions with slight Ethnic influences. Nice, high pitched, vocals by Devika Evsikova, lots of keyboards and (Ethnic) percussion. But also brass instruments, guitars and occasionally some flute and ud. It’s a bit dreamy album that is best listened late at night. Comfortable jazz crossover with a mainstream touch, ready for a big audience. Personally I’m a fan of more ethnic orientated jazz, but without doubt this is a very nice album with a good vibe.
© Eelco Schilder

Sultans of String "Move"
MCK, 2011

Sultans of string is a Canadian ‘string’ band, with violins, guitars bass and percussion/drums. Totally unknown to me, but a pleasure to meet. The band is nominated and awarded several times in the past few years and this album shows exactly why. Together with a few guest musicians, this quintet blows me away with sparkling, sunny contemporary world music. (and their own version of the Neil Young classic song Heart of gold). With great techniques the five musicians play their original music inspired by Flamenco, Gypsy swing, Canadian tradition and some exotic vibes. All of this in smart musical arrangements and played at a fantastic high level. Some real craftsmanship on this album, they take you from sunny Spain to the darkness of the jazz club and from the exploding beats of the Balkan to the mystical beauty of Lebanon. This band is totally ready for a big international audience and guaranteed that they will have great success in concert halls all over the world. It’s music that many people understand, music that connects.
© Eelco Schilder

Minor Empire "Second Nature"
World trip records, 2011

German CD Review

Second Nature is the debut album of the Canadian band Minor Empire. Founded by the bands guitarist and composer Ozan boz and singer Özgü Özman. Together with seven other musicians on traditional instruments such as the Oud, saz and kanun and on modern instruments such as the electric guitar and sound programming. The music on the album is based on traditional Turkish music, some are arranged traditional, and others are original, inspired by tradition. The album is a perfect symbiosis between the Turkish traditional elements and the contemporary jazz and electronic sounds. What I like so much is the authentic atmosphere the music breaths, but it’s modern sound at the same time. It’s tradition from a new generation, perfectly arranged, highest quality and an exciting collaboration between professional musicians. Özman has a wonderful voice fitting perfectly to the music. Great that also a pure track like Ismail’s spell is part of the album, a nice Oud solo piece slowly changing into the song Bülbülüm altin kafeste. This are not just songs, the album is like a concept record, all compositions have their own atmosphere but are connected at the same time, they form a natural completeness. A dream debut!
© Eelco Schilder

Ralsgård & Tullberg
"Traditional flute music from Sweden"
Kapsyd, 2010

The organization Kapsyd is a new one for me and turns out to be an organization run by Swedish musicians who produce records and organize concerts. This album is their first release and already over a year old, but still a great joy to review. The two musicians play traditional tunes from Skåne, Småland and a few Danish tunes on their wooden flutes. The fourteen tracks are arranged by the musician themselves in a strong, pure way. The album sounds so fresh, sunny and uncomplicated that it’s hard not to fall in love with the music. My three year old daughter is dancing on the wooden bench next to me on Johan Jaco bruun’s / Vrigstad right now with a big smile on her face. Besides this great sound, the flutists show a fluent way of playing and a strong technique that makes this album a real pleasure to listen to and write about. For all who love Swedish traditional music or the airy sound of the wooden flutes, this is a highly recommended album.
© Eelco Schilder

Fjärin "Krydsning"
Own label, 2011

Fjärin is a new, young and dynamic Danish trio and this Krydsning is their debut album from last autumn. With violin, bass and guitar only this band surprises me a lot with their exciting mix of Danish traditional sounds, jazzy arrangements and roots rhythms. The album starts carefully, but beautifully (sorry, but I got a review copy without track listing and I can’t find one on the web) with a fragile tune. Followed by a light jazz piece that still kept the soul of traditional Danish music. Track three is a dreamy tale told on the instruments and mouth whistling while track five has a more outspoken sound with dreamy, almost light, psychedelic percussion. Towards the end the CD gets a more upbeat sound without losing its peaceful and pure character. Some Celtic influences can be heard. The album ends with a melodic, melancholic composition and this way a really strong debut ends in style. With creativity this three musicians add a new sound to the rich world of Danish traditional/acoustic music.
© Eelco Schilder

Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi "The Devils Bride"
ARC Music, 2011

Klezmaniaxx "Am Ostpol"
Own label, 2011

Feidman & Gitanes Blondes "Very Klezmer"
Pianissimo, 2012

Well, I hear a lot of Yiddish and klezmer albums, but this one is different. Yale Strom & Hot Pstromi play a collection of traditional tunes, many known, recorded on violin, accordion, cimbalom, bas and vocals. But all of them are introduced by a narrator giving information about the history and the theme’s of the songs. A very interesting way to get into the deep history of the Yiddish and Klezmer music. It is these stories about the music that make this album so special. The music itself is played nicely, in a very decent way, but not different than most mainstream Yiddish or Klezmer albums. But hearing the story behind the music makes them come to life. Very nice album for those who like to hear about the history of songs and tunes.
The second klezmer album comes from The Klezmaniaxx. And is called Am Ostpol. Seven musicians playing thirteen traditional tunes and songs. Multi instrumentalists playing about twenty instruments on one album. A lot of brass sounds and with such a wide variation of instruments you might expect a real explosion of Klezmer sounds. But strangely enough this is a bit low energy level album. Decently played, but where is the fire? Where is the rawness, the party? They really try, but the melodies aren’t played fluently enough and it’s like they blow their horns on half speed. A friendly Klezmer album, but it needs more to standout from the loads of Klezmer album released every month.
Finally a Klezmer legend. The latest album by Giora Feidman together with the Gitanes Blondes. The album is called Very Klezmer. Feidman is probably the best known Klezmer musician worldwide and his clarinet play is legendary beautiful. Here he plays together with a rally nice band and this result in an exciting Klezmer adventure. This are musicians who understand how to play Klezmer, passion, emotion, sadness and happiness all together. Sometimes beautifully soft like in Der uralte kindernigun and in a wonderful track as Sholem-Alekhem, rov Feidman. And on other moments, like in the haunting composition Irish morning, exciting and full of energy without being wild and uncontrolled. A wonderful new album by Feidman together with a bunch of musicians who really add something to his play and perfectly understand what his music needs.
© Eelco Schilder

Dené Theron "1000 Cups of Tea"
Peace of Eden, 2009

Dené Theron is a singer- songwriter from South Africa who now lives in Amsterdam. She is currently working on a new album and just to get to know her music, her Dutch manager send me her previous album from 2009 called 1000 cups of tea. Theron loves music as long as she can remember and she studied piano and clarinet. Now she plays the acoustic guitar and sings her original songs. The album starts really gently with Hey baby, a light jazz-blues song in which Theron shows her wonderful, rich voice. It’s a strong start and she clearly feels comfortable in singing this type of music. In the second song bubbles she shows a more contemporary sound, again nice and easy going acoustic pop music, but not as strong as the opening track. This has to do with the guitar which is too loud and takes away the attention from her vocals, a pity as Crazy shows exactly how it should be done. A great song in which she plays with the melody and rhythms and puts her own sound into the music. After another warm jazzy song, it’s Princess Zuri that steels my heart. Her vocals are at her best in this track, but again this guitar is bothering me a bit. What a strong composition, greatly sung, but it needs just this final adjusting to make it sound like an organic whole. This 1000 cups of tea is a strong debut album with great songwriting from a very talented singer. This album makes me really curious to hear her new work which will be published sometime in 2012. This 2009 album shows her big potential to become a major singer-songwriter. It just needs this final finishing touches, a bit more balance in sound and a more fluent guitar play. But I’m sure that she worked on all this the past three years and her new album will surprise me even more than this debut CD.
© Eelco Schilder

Zahr "Zahr"
Taquin records, 2011

The Zahr ensemble is meeting of jazz and Italian/Arabic influenced music. The three musicians, occasionally joined by a fourth one, play soft world-jazz on piano, oud and percussion. Occasionally an added electric bass and accordion make the sound of the group complete. The band plays a combination of traditional and original compositions. Starting with Alla carpinese an intriguing combination of the jazzy piano and authentic sound of the oud and bendir. A very strong composition in which the instruments and styles bring out the best in each other. On the traditional track Tammurriata the trio is joined by the great Italian singer Lucilla Galeazzi. A complicated composition with complex musical arrangements, changing rhythmic patterns etc. Wonderfully sung by the powerful Galeazzi and three passionate musicians. Again a perfect balance between styles. Great is also Piccolo suite per marranzanu e tammureddu, a percussion composition with atypical Southern Italian twist. In the known Tarantella dell’avena the trio is joined by Galeazzi again. I know this song from three other groups, but this is such a different interpretation that I really get the feeling hearing a totally different song. What a wonderful album with a perfect mixture of jazz and tradition by dedicated musicians.
© Eelco Schilder

Mohammad Reza Mortazavi "Geradeaus"
Broken silence, 2011

A difficult album to review, solo percussion for almost an hour. The percussionist Reza Mortazavi comes originally from Iran who lives since eight years in Germany. This new solo album contains six compositions in which he reflects a kind of journey. From soft, gentle rhythmic patterns, to wild and furious thunders rolling out of his daf and tombak. Many moments the album intrigues me, but being far from a percussion expert, it’s hard for me to write about his techniques etc. All I can tell is it’s an album with hypnotic music that creates all kind of landscapes in ones imagination.
© Eelco Schilder

Connie Smith "Long Line of Heartaches"
Sugar hill, 2011

Strangely enough Connie Smith is a lesser known singer than many of her fellow musicians in the same style. It is strange because she has recorded over 50 albums and is seen by colleagues as one of the best country-rock voices ever. This new album is only her second in over thirty years, so that might be one of the reasons why this name didn’t ring a bell at all. Hearing this new album called Long line of heartaches I hear a musician who easily can compete with the best in her genre. I listened to some of her earlier recordings and find this new album a big leap forwards, her music got more personal, more powerful and her voice only got richer and stronger. This new album is full of strong country-pop/rock with some nice (steel) guitar parts. I personally like the more introvert songs like I’m not blue and My part of forever the best. Here her voice gets the deepest sound, really nice. An album that will be liked by lovers of the genre and a great addition to her huge discography.
© Eelco Schilder

Andrew Cronshaw "The Unbroken Surface of Snow"
Cloud Valley, 2011

Andrew Cronshaw is one of best known English multi instrumentalist with an impressive discography. He recorded with known names such as the silly sisters, Scott Walker and Natascha Atlas just to name a few. But beside appearing as a session musician on albums and as a producer, Cronshaw developed throughout the decades his very own, personal solo sound. With a great interest in the (traditional) music of Finland, Scotland and many other places, Cronshaw has always been searching for a common sound in all the different styles and cultures who meet on his records. Now, eight years after his last solo album, it all comes together on a beautiful and impressive album. Together with the known Finnish singer Sanna Kurki-Suonio on vocals, Ian Blake on clarinet and sax and finally Tigran Aleksanyan on the Armenian duduk, Cronshaw recorded five tracks. Long, haunting tracks that at the highlight of the album go over 30 minutes a track. The musicians take the time to tell their story. They create impressive pictures and atmospheres by mixing traditional fragments from several places with strong craftsmanship on their instruments. Of course the tinkling sound of Cronshaw on zither is an important element of the music, but listen to this wonderful, sad sound of the duduk or the more heavy sound of the bass clarinet. Or what about the typical vocals of Kurki-Suonio. With her incomparable voice which has sharp touch, but warm at the same time, it fits perfectly in the strong compositions. With this album Cronshaw brings together the best of him and his fellow musicians. A beautiful album for every season, although I feel small snowflakes falling in my body when Kurki-Suonio is almost whispering her old runo song.
© Eelco Schilder

Titi Robin "Les rives"
Naïve, 2011

The master of moody-world music returns with a three CD box. No introduction is needed for this great artist who is capable of bringing ancient sounds from the south and the east back to life. Robin has a nose for finding the right musicians and pure quality as composer, musician and personality. This new 3 cd album is very ambitious, with three discs all with their own atmosphere but with the typical Robin sound as well. Occasionally a bit bombastic, but on other moments soft as the kindest whisper you can imagine. Robin is painting with his music, he puts a spell on his listener who wakes up in Turkish mountains, Moroccan villages and on Indian celebrations. In between you hear influences from the whole of Southern Europe, jazzy arrangements, psychedelic vibes and moments of Balkan passion. All of this acoustic and pure and in a very accessible way ready to concur a big audience worldwide. Choose yourself, start with CD 1 in India, the second CD in Turkey or the final third CD in Morocco. Three different cultures brought in a commercial attractive way by fabulous musicians.
© Eelco Schilder

Orkiestra św Mikolaja "Drugi Koncert"
Konador, 2010

Now, in 2012, Polish (modern) folk music is totally back and booming. This orchestra from the beautiful town of Lublin is a real pioneer in Polish traditional music and a big inspiration for many of the younger groups around at this moment. This new live album contains recordings from march 2010 and is a surprisingly light and accessible album. For the first time I have the feeling the band is developing a more mainstream sound. Still wonderful instrumental parts, haunting vocals and beating rhythms. But only a few times on this live album I get this exciting feeling hearing really passionate music. Don’t get me wrong, it’s all well played and of high quality. But it’s no longer renewing or inventive, the band is still one of Poland’s best groups but with this much quality I hope they choose a more dangerous side path in future.
© Eelco Schilder

Alfa Arroba "Alfa Arroba"
Own label, 2011

Alfa Arroba is a Portuguese trio on accordion, clarinet and percussion. They play a mixture of traditional and contemporary instrumental compositions. Rooted in Portuguese culture, they also add sounds and rhythms from other parts of the continent into their music. This is their first, private released, CD with nine tracks. A very nice first attempt. Clearly three musicians with passion for the music make their first moves into the global world of music. A bit too carefully sometimes. This album shows a lot of potential and a few really nice musical ideas, but it also sounds a bit like the musicians don’t dare to bring it into the open. The way of arranging the tunes is nice, but they use the same kind of patterns in several tracks which sometimes gives me the feeling I heard a tune before. The more I hear of the album the more I think I’m listening to a few really talented musicians, who forgot to give all they have. What is typically Alfa Arroba? What makes this trio different than the many other trio’s on this planet? That’s what I would love to hear next time. Nevertheless a decent album with nice music, but the second album I wish for includes a creative outburst by all three playing on the edge of their comfort zone of just over that edge.
© Eelco Schilder

Sebass "Import muzika"
Own label, 2010

An already two years old album from Switzerland, a young band called Sebass playing Balkan music. Six musicians playing on brass instruments, violins, accordion, percussion, bass and mandolin, also some harmony vocals and male and female leads. Their repertoire is a mixture of original material, traditional tunes and a Bregovic composition. A nice debut album with very recognizable Balkan music, sometimes really well played, but also a bit careful. This is such an album that shows a band with a lot of promising ideas for the future, but it needs more time to develop into a unique own sound. I think the band plays it a bit to safe and to close to Balkan sounds already known. If they really want to get noticed between the hundreds of bands that play Balkan or sort like music. The Cd proofs that they know how to play this style of music, now they need the courage to follow their own ideas more and develop a unique ‘Sebass’ style.
© Eelco Schilder

Marisa Monte "O que voce quer saber de verdade"
EMI, 2011

From Brazil comes singer Marisa Monte with her latest album. Monte is a very known Brazilian musicians and this is her ninth album since her debut solo album in 1989 and her first new studio release in five years. During the years Monte grew more and more to the mainstream side of Brazilian roots-pop. With slight elements of tradition, this last album is a soft-pop album with fourteen tracks that are almost overproduced and haven’t got much originality left. Great voice, really professional arrangements, but after my personal opinion, she moved too much into the late night middle of the road pop music.
© Eelco Schilder

Das Grossmütterchen Hatz Salon Orkestar "Gallato
Eiffelbaum Records, 2011

From Austria comes this quintet, or orkestar as they call themselves. Grouped around singer and accordion player Franziska Hatz. The band plays Balkan traditionals mostly, arranged by the musicians. What I like is that this band dares to be different and searches for their own sound and style. It’s great, sometimes explosive, music. Energetic and the fun and pleasure of the musicians is hearable in their, bit raw, interpretation of the traditional tunes. Nice jazz elements, bit occasional SKA sounds and a few moments of cliché sounding melodies and dances, but without getting boring. Just before I think they should change their style, they take an unexpected road and surprise me again with their real party music. Very nice album, much better than many other Balkan-like bands.
© Eelco Schilder

Gansan "Élégie berbère"
Home Records, 2011

Didier François "Nykelharpa solo"
Home Records, 2011

Maarten Decombel "October Sunrise"
Home Records, 2011

Tref "Dampf"
Home Records, 2011

Aux âmes etc... "Hip-Pop-Song-Citadine Poetry"
Home Records, 2011

Before I write about a few of the latest release by the Belgium Home records label, I really have to assure you that they don’t pay me in any way to write positive reviews over and over again about their releases and I really try to write nasty things about their albums, but somehow they keep surprising me with their innovative quality music.
The first new release comes from the band Gansan and is called Élégie berbère. The band combines their love for the Moroccan instrument the Ribeb with that of the saxophone, backed by bass, drums, percussion and guitar. Some occasional vocals complete the album. Nine original tracks with intriguing rhythms, unexpected twists and quality compositions. The musicians mix roots with jazzy arrangements and sometimes a bit experimental soft-rock influences. It sounds like a natural blend of traditional (North-African) elements and the more modern jazz and slight rock influences. Exciting harmonies, strong solo’s and so much more make this an album that is not always an easy one, but intrigues from the first till the last second and ripes in time like an excellent red wine.
The second album from the label is a totally different one. Didier François plays Nyckelharpa solo as the title tells us. This great Belgian musician has amazed me many times in the past with beautiful albums and great cooperation’s with other music wizards. On this solo album no Bela Bartok, like he did before, but a combination of original pieces and (more or less) traditional and classical compositions. Interesting because it’s not the standard Nyckelharpa repertoire. That this instrument is suitable for so much more than Swedish folk music only, he already proved on earlier works. But he never did it in such an passionate way as on this one. This pure album dreams away from start till end and shows the warm sound of the instrument and the high quality of the musician. Wonderful is his version of Grieg’s Gnossienne no 3. Which I know from piano only, but gets a much different, more sad, atmosphere when played on the Nyckelharpa. His own compositions are more expressive and influenced by modern music like the very nice piece Mo which at first sight sounds like a simple composition, but turns out to be a complex combination of rhythms and subtle changes of melodies. A beautiful album and one of the nicest release of 2011.
Next Maarten Decombel and his solo album October sunrise. Decombel is known as one of the members of Göze and the Naragonia quartet amongst others. This is his first solo output with himself on guitar and vocals, backed by Louis Favre on drums and Rui Salgado on contrabass. Twelve nice compositions in acoustic jazz style. Sparkling guitar play, fragile vocals, mixed with easy going percussion and bass. An introvert, personal album that shows the many sides of Decombel. A restful album with sober arrangements and a nice serene sound, with only a few moments of wildness. A very pleasant first solo album.
Well, a new album by the Tref quartet is something to look forward to. Three diatonic accordions and a drummer/percussionist. From the first moment the band makes it very clear that this is an extravert album with some upbeat modern folk music. All original compositions, but with enough elements of tradition, SKA, rock and so on. The past ten years there started some kind of neo-accordion 2.0 era and a band like Tref is one of the best in this reinvention of the instrument. They play with sounds, beats and melody. The accordion turns out to be a beat box, a sample machine, a melancholic monster and a melodic multi functional instrument and Tref shows all those sides in a creative mix of styles and sounds.
The last new release on the Homerecords label is a special project called Aux âmes etc. This project is a joint venture of Arbadacarba, Tout est joli, SilverRat band and L’ami terrien. All musicians who participate use hip hop, poetry, rap etc. to tell their stories. On this album it are the lyrics that matter, they have something to say and are not just meaningless words. The SilverRat band does this with smooth brass-hip hop, while L’ami terrain recitals poems, Tout est joli uses a more raw and confrontation musical style and Arbadacarba is split up in a percussion part and spoken words. An intriguing album and a pity my French is very bad, I would love to understand more of the lyrics, especially on the spoken parts. Or an English description or translation would have helped to understand the poetry better.
© Eelco Schilder

FolkWorld Homepage German Content English Content Editorial & Commentary News & Gossip Letters to the Editors CD & DVD Reviews Book Reviews Folk for Children Folk & Roots Online Guide - Archives & External Links Search FolkWorld Info & Contact

FolkWorld - Home of European Music
FolkWorld Homepage
Layout & Idea of FolkWorld © The Mollis - Editors of FolkWorld