Not, as one might expect from the title, a set of variations on the works of ol’ Ludwig Van B (whose 250th birthday anniversary is this year). No, this Ludwig is a creaky, wheezy old small piano-accordion made by the German company Ludwig, and in these pieces its characterful sounds are augmented and celebrated by Mike Adcock and a cast of his pals responding to the pieces on a sympathetic range of other mainly acoustic instruments.
I’ll let him explain.
In the early days of the Corona virus lockdown of 2020 I sat down one evening in my living room, my head full of thoughts about what the coming months might bring. I’d taken down from a shelf an ancient and rarely touched accordion, thinking to explore its charms, and began to improvise. The accordion is about a century old and I bought it years ago for not much money, mainly because I liked the look of it. It was virtually unplayable but I was drawn to the way its age had bestowed upon it a range of never intended sounds, giving it a depth and subtlety no new instrument would offer. A few adjustments have improved the playing somewhat but there are reeds that badly need tuning or replacing and it still creaks and croaks, rattles and wheezes, to the extent that many accordion-players might only consider it worthy of a drive to the dump. But for my part I was glad to have given it a reprieve.
The opening track, “Ludwig In Concordia,” immediately endears. The accordion creaks and clatters, developing slow alternating chords, building and surging as a bass clarinet and two cellos join, becoming almost orchestral, then down to wheezy bent single notes on the accordion, with the other instruments progressively creeping back in for more of the emotional wave-motion. Full of grain and texture, evocative beauty.
There’s some lovely low groaning and shuffling in “Ludwig Meets The King Of Denmark.” Then steady uptempo chucka-chugging for “Ludwig Goes To Wigtown,” with its whistling, squee-ing wayward theremin. Dripping rain and fumbling accordion move to Cretan thunderstorm on “Ludwig At The Window,” while puttering motorbike tops and tails the lurching walking-bass swing of “Ludwig Takes A Trip”. In “Ludwig And The Ebonite.” parping, meandering baritone sax converses with the accordion, joined by the plinks and boings of a rusty-stringed utterly out of tune lap-harp.
Slick and showy begone; this is intimate and charming. It’s the sort of thing to accompany a wistfully droll French film. Back in the day it would probably have caught on if John Peel had played it on his radio show, and he’d probably have made a suitable segue from it into an Ivor Cutler track.
- Andrew Cronshaw
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