Felmay/Dunya (

cd cover Ariondela, translated as a mallow or hibiscus plant, is a female a-cappella trio from the Piedmont of northern Italy, initially familiar for their backing performances on La Piva dal Carner's 1997 "M'han Presa" recording. Their material is based upon traditional regional sources, spanning Italian, French, and local dialects, accented with lively, idiosyncratic arrangements, and supplemented by the charming and witty compositions of Maria Adelaide Negrin, one of the singers.

"Tre Comare di La Tor"
The initial track, "Meteo Mirasol," illustrates this eclectic playfulness, a childlike sing-song melody intoned in "nah-nah" vocables over a vocal drone, sometimes unison, sometimes harmonies, interlarded with spoken weather proverbs, capped off with a brief rising incantation to the sun that serves as a framing figure for the recording. In "Tre comare di La Tor," a jaunty, simple melody is lent great interest by bass scat vocal percussion, mischievous high "la-la" embellishments, and down-swoops at the ends of verses. But Ariondela is not slavishly upbeat: "L'amitie d'une hirondelle," recorded live in a French cathedral, is a sad, pretty tale of a girl imprisoned in a tower with only a robin for a friend.

The best tracks are or contain Negrin compositions. In "Le premier jour du mois d'avril / Scottish / Bourée," two voices provide galloping backdrop to a traditional tale of a wounded soldier, seamlessly interspersed with a pair of inventive, complementary Negrin skat compositions, with the bourée a remarkably bright waltz. "Bagna Caoda calypso dixie" starts with vinyl scratch and thirties jazz singing, fades into a lively a-cappella recipe, and reprises its jazzy intro with scat percussion.

Ariondela seems to be continually winking coyly from the speakers, while presenting arrangements so clear that each of the three voices can be plainly identified. - Jim Foley

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Audio used by permission of Felmay/Dunya

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