Warsaw Village Band : Uprooting
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Warsaw Village Band
World Village, US (www.worldvillagemusic.com) / Jaro, Germany (www.jaro.de)

cd cover The Warsaw Village Band return after their landmark debut People's Spring, and the advance word on Uprooting was that WVB were taking Polish traditional music further into electronica. I half expected Uprooting to be in the vein of the mind-blowing remixes that closed People's Spring, but such is not the case. The fact is, Warsaw Village Band are doing for Polish traditional folk music what Hedningarna and Värttinä did for Swedish and Finnish music, respectively. Certainly the band's primary vocalists, Maja Kleszcz and Magdalene Sobczak, remind me of the lyric flights of fancy that Värttinä conjure, especially when joined by the Lipsk woman's choir.

Uprooting's first proper track, "In The Forest," is unabashedly experimental, a dense mixture of electronic scratching and even a siren (!) dicing up the bobbing violins and trance-inducing dulcimer. "When Johnny went to fight in the war" might be the result if Tom Waits were to rewrite Polish folk music: snaredrum, scratching, and xylophone make the tune the most avant-garde on the disc. But WVB prove that they can find the groove in ancient melodies apart from technological wizardry. The work-song "Matthew" comes off as a loping field-holler, complemented by staccato violin and off-kilter percussion.

"Let's Play, Musicians" puts me in mind of a sultry version of the traditional English tune "The Lyke Wake Dirge," with its unearthly quality that builds throughout. The song is a lament for a young bride leaving her home, and it seems pinned between wonder and terror. But my personal favorite track is "I've Slayed the Rye," which concerns a peasant who has destroyed his domineering master's crops. The gliding violins, laced with echo, are reminiscent of the post-bluegrass musings of The Horseflies; ominous, harrowing, and dark.

The Warsaw Village Band have an overwhelming sound, one so familiar yet foreign that the group might as well have landed in the Polish countryside from outer-space. Bounding fearlessly across past, present, and future, they represent what the best modern roots bands are all about. - Lee Blackstone

CD available from cdRoots

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