TendachŽnt - Italian roots from the Valley of the Saracens
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cd cover Tendachënt
La Valle dei Saraceni
FolkClub EthnoSuoni (www.folkclubethnosuoni.com)

The music of Italy's Piedmont region has been under the spotlight recently, with a fistful of fine releases coming out of the area. The simple, bucolic melodies and danceable rhythms lend themselves to a multiplicity of treatments. TendachŽnt adds their take to the mix with La Valle dei Saraceni. It's a well-crafted collection of traditional and traditional-sounding original music.

A folk-rock sensibility is at the core, with a strong backbeat under acoustic guitar and folk instruments such as bagpipe, jaw harp and hurdy-gurdy. This is overlaid with chamber strings and the occasional touch of new age synth. The six musicians create a warm, complex sound, with arrangements that find something new around every corner. Making liberal use of counterpoint and other inventive bits of polyphonic layering, they make each repetition of the short, straightforward tunes sound fresh and original. La Ciapa Rusa's Maurizio Martinotti handles the vocals in his no-nonsense manner, easily managing lyrics in Italian, French, and dialects of both.

But the band really shines in the instrumentals, not to take anything away from Martinotti. On the newly-composed schottische "Buton fiurž," for example, they pull out all the stops, building it up from its gentle drum intro by adding strata of whistle, hurdy-gurdy, synth and some truly elegant strings. The medley "Monferrina detta di San Michele/Mala tempora/Luvara" takes three rustic dance tunes, one traditional, two by Martinotti, and twists them into a sweet little braid using buzzy hurdy-gurdy and jaw harp, smooth strings, and rock drums. La Valle dei Saraceni is easy on the ears, but with just enough bite to keep it out of the sugar bowl. - Peggy Latkovich

CD available from cdRoots

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