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The Tendachënt odyssey has earlier roots in another group: La Ciapa Rusa, formed in the late 1970s, which became one of the premier outfits of the northern Italian folk revival. Founding member Maurizio Martinotti spent considerable time gathering the folk tunes of the people, particularly in rural communities; and as with many other researchers in the early days of the Italian folk revival, the project had a political dimension, reclaiming supposed ‘lost’ elements of culture from the ravages of modernity. Further, the instrumentation of the songs and the dance tunes emphasized the indigenous instruments of the Piedmont region: pipes, flutes, accordion, and the hurdy-gurdy. La Ciapa Rusa disbanded in 1997, but its influence on and nurturing of a new generation of Italian folk musicians cannot be underestimated.

Martinotti formed a new group, Tendachënt, shortly afterwards to continue the work of La Ciapa Rusa and to push the boundaries of the earlier experiments in sound. The later albums of La Ciapa Rusa incorporated more of a ‘folk-rock’ dynamic, and Tendachënt mines this perspective as well. Arnčis is the group’s fourth appearance with a full-length CD, and the album marks a slight departure for Tendachënt.

Arnčis celebrates the instruments of the band, and so the repertoire here is presented acoustically. For lovers of hurdy-gurdy, this album proves to be a joy, as the drone and drive of the instrument is quite prominent. Unlike Tendachënt’s prior offering La valle dei Saraceni (2005), the drums and electric bass are not present (the latter, perhaps, out of respect for Gerardo Savone, the former bass player for Tendachënt who passed away in 2008 and to whom the album is dedicated). However, despite the comparatively ‘stripped down’ approach, the listener may not even notice, as the group’s sound is incredibly rich and full.

As La Ciapa Rusa developed, an emphasis was placed on modern compositions that built upon traditional elements. The repertoire on Arnčis is primarily focused around the work of Martinotti, with the occasional traditional tune being played. And as the Piedmont region, in the north of Italy, is close to France and the ancient Occitan regions, elements of those traditions are worked into the material as well. The interplay of tradition and modern is so subtle as to appear natural, as evidenced on tunes such as “Castello di Verrua” and “Marcia Mora.” The first fourteen tracks of the album have been recorded in the studio, but the last five selections are from a live concert, allowing the listener to hear Tendachënt’s acoustic magic in an entirely new light. - Lee Blackstone

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