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Music of France


  • Alan Stivell (Brittany)
  • Jean Chocun from Tri Yann (Brittany)
  • Yann-Fañch Perroches (Brittany)
  • Nicholas Reyes of Gipsy Kings

    The Music of Brittany
    Breton Bagpipes and Cornmuse (reprinted from Dirty Linen)

    Some CD reviews:

  • L'Attirail
  • Manu Chao
  • Skaliero
  • Gabriel Yacoub
  • Lo'Jo
  • Picotage Ailleurs
    Sergent García
    Accord�onistes en Aubrac
    Oller & Company
    Accord�onistes en Aubrac
    Pere Figueres
    Compagnie Chez Bousca
    Alan Stivell

    Melonious Quartet
    Au Sud de la Mandoline
    l'empreinte digitale ([email protected], via Harmonia Mundi-US)

    French mandolinist Patrick Vaillant has been at the forefront of the new folk music movement in Europe for many years, particularly in his adventurous new music work with Italian accordionist Ricardo Tesi. But Melonious Quartet is something different. This ensemble mimics the classical string quartet with a foursome of mandocello, alto mandolin, mandola and mandolin, but there the comparison really stops. Au Sud de la Mandoline moves to the essentials of the instrument, where the plectrum is king and all music is a target of their rage and affection. The stated focus is the music "of the south" and there is much of southern France (particularly Provence), the Mediterranean and Brazil, including an excellent rendition of a Pixinguinha work, "Ainda me recordo." But this is largely not a folk music exploration. They perform Francis Poulenc's "Mouvements Perpetuel" brilliantly, evoking not only the strong folk roots of this early 20th century work, but finding a modern edge as it is transferred to all plucked instruments. Their rendition of Darius Milhaud's "Suite Provencal" emphasizes his varied Mediterranean roots as a Frenchman from Provence and as a Jew, in a lovely, sparse arrangement. They also tackle distinctly non-southern music, particularly in their remarkably romantic rendition of Frank Zappa's "King Kong." The recording opens with one and closes with two traditional pieces from Provencal, a suite of Christmas tunes and two "farandole" that they take great and wonderful liberties with. Excellent throughout, Melonious Quartet transcends both the instruments they play and the music they choose. - CF

    Fragments de Routes
    Buda (

    This unique recording by Nord-Sud, the French duo of Jean-Pierre Yvert and Jacques Mayoud, may demand a finite gestation period from many listeners, but can hardly avoid entrancing with its unearthly beauty. Or perhaps hyper-earthly is a more accurate term for the sounds emanating from modern versions of two primitive families of musical instruments: harmonic flutes, simple tubes overblown at one end and alternately stopped and opened at the other, and sanzas, thumb pianos encompassing mbiras and kalimbas.

    The unexpected wealth of musical possibilities of these simple instruments unfold on "Suite de Hallings," a set of gyring Norwegian dances featuring a tight duet by harmonic flutes. The didgeridu-like effects of a bass harmonic flute and the playful water sounds of a sanza support a melody line more familiar from Nordic fiddle work, but lent a sprightly charm by the flutes. In "Dagen Gryr," a simple Swedish waltz of greeting to the winter sun as it begins its twenty-minute journey across the sky, a contrapuntal flute duet suggests an eccentric calliope. A modal scale redolent of the Orient emerges from a harmonic flute with a single added finger hole on "La Route de l'Est" Carlo Rizzo's slaps, booms, and smooth finger rolls on the Turkish zarb adding percussive intrigue. If you have trouble imagining a lilting waltz in 9/8 time, the gentle sanza backing of the first part of "Polskalimba - La Soufflette" will get you in the mood quickly while a single flute plays tag with the melody; the second part mutates into a true waltz, the two sanzas quiet and spellbinding with prominent sizzles.

    Nord-Sud has other instruments up their sleeves as well, such as the three-stringed oil-can fiddle which takes the lead in "La Barca Vira." Balafon and harmonic flutes suggest a medieval ball in an African castle. Fragments de Routes comes with informative liner notes in French and entertainingly translated English, as well as photos of the many of the instruments played. - Jim Foley

    Patrick Vaillant, Renat Sette and Bijan Chemirani
    Enamorada Madalena
    l'empriente digitale (France; via Harmonia Mundi, US)

    Three remarkable musicians have joined together to revive and enliven the traditional Christian music of Provence, lending it a modern pan-Mediterranean feel and an ancient French wisdom. Vaillant is a mandolinist extrodinaire, a gifted writer and arranger, and an innovative player. Sette is a professional stone mason and singer, with an emotional delivery that can beg mercy and laugh at fate in the same phrase. Chemirani is from a famous Iranian family of percussionists, and he offers a diverse and sometimes surprising sound element to this album.

    It's fitting that something as universal as the death and resurrection of Christ, the sorrows of his mother and friends and the hope of Christian faith should take the form this trio has given them, something both buried in a distant memory and yet still immediate in the hearts of believers. There is a sparseness to the arrangements, which rarely have more than three distinct instruments playing at any moment. But this very element is also what makes the music so abundant. There is complex interplay between the musicians, with intuitive turns of phrase that make this a very rich recording. - CF

    Hector Zazou
    Lights in The Dark
    Erato/Detour/Warner Classics (

    Producer Hector Zazou melds Irish sacred folk hymns with contemporary sensibilites to create an album of subtle beauty that opens before the listener as a flower slowly opens its petals to the sun. Like his previous releases, Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses (Polygram, 1991), Sahara Blue (Crammed/Sony, 1992), and Chansons Des Mers Froides/Songs from the Cold Seas (Sony, 1995), Zazou has assembled an eclectic cast of world musicians to accompany three relatively unknown female vocalists: Breda Mayock, Katie McMahon and Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola.

    Rather than bathe the music in Irish cliches, the religious lullabys and laments only hint of the Celtic tradition. This is music where whispy vocals are carressed by the light touch of Thierry Robin's oud. The kora of Papa D'jabate is juxtaposed against the violin of Richard Bourreau, or the cello of Caroline Lavelle is played against the piano noodlings of Ryuichi Sakamoto. At once we are in Ireland, but a cry of the pekou transports us to North Africa. While the project on paper begins to sound like a cultural salad-bar, Zazou's filter makes the shadings so subtle you barely notice.

    Zazou is an Algerian-born, Paris based electronic musician whose unlikely collaborations with the likes of Papa Wemba, Suzanne Vega, Harold Budd, and most recently with Yungchen Llamo, have set him apart as adventurous and unpredictable. His career began as a rock musician in the group Barricades, and then a two-album duo with Josef Racaille as ZNR, creating contemporary French impressionist music inspired by Eric Satie. In the mid-Eighties, he collaborated with Zairian singer Bony Bikaye to create four albums of electronic African music.

    His most recent projects are also Zazou's most noteworthy. Here he serves as a director for great productions, with themes like the writings of French poet Arthur Rimbaud (Sahara Blue). Lights in the Dark, his latest effort, is also his best. Zazou's earlier works sported technical wizardry and special effects. Lights is more mature. The effects are muted, and the music evolves. Passionate songs once relegated to Irish music scholars are presented for another generation. -Wayne Whitwam

    Nord-Sud - Jean Pierre Yvert and Jaques Mayoud
    Fragments de Routes
    Buda, France ([email protected] - via Allegro, US

    It's a recipe for disaster. Two musicians (French) take music and instruments from other cultures (Scandinavian, west African, Indonesian; harmonic flutes, sanzas, zarb) and make a new hybrid music. Usually this comes to naught, a drifting "spirituality" or a trancey-dancey fusion that turns to mud in the ear. So what a pleasure to see this collaboration not only do well, but succeed beautifully by making the music their own, integrating rather than borrowing the ideas they hear, creating their own fragmented route to their muse. They do some straight Norwegian "hallings," on flute, then give a French polska and waltz a fine twist by playing them on the kalimba, flute and jews harp. Two traditional tunes, one a "gangar" fiddle tune from Sweden, the other a melody from Burkina Faso, melt together into a lively song with diatonic accordion and water drum. With a sanza tuned to an Indonesian scale and a soprano sax replacing the reeds, they give a bit of the sound of Sunda to an otherwise Senegalese structure in "Yoor-yoor / Sounda." This could all have turned to mush, but by keeping it clean, with most pieces only duo, trio or quartet arrangements, they instead find an essential folksiness, and some improvisational elbow room, and have created a charming album with no particular place or time. - CF

    SANDRA REID explores language as much as music in La Traversée (Lyrichord), a journey through the folk music of France, Celtic Britanny, French Canada and Louisiana. It is rather a formal approach, and stiff at times because of its ethno-folk pretense, but there are gems throughout the album that really reach down into the heart of the French musical experience as it spread around the world, and reid has an intense delivery and a rich color to her voice that makes amends for a lot of the preciousness of the production. If it was solely a capella, Traversée might be hailed as an important folk-art song album. As it stands, it is scattered with rich moments and wonderful singing. - CF

    Silex/France, via Harmonia Mundi in US
    Thierry is an oud and guitar player, a member of the incredible Trio Erik Marchand, and a musician who understands that at the heart of every tradition lies all the traditions before it and all the contemporary world that touches it. Gitans explores the Gipsy music of a hundred cultures, past and present, and while it seems to be bits and pieces of flamenco, Gipsy and Arabic music, what it really is is a map of the world, a music that has ties to Europe, Asia and Africa while owing allegiance to none of them. He has pulled together an impressive group for this album: Paco Lobo on guitar and voice, the stunning "Mambo" Saadna on male voice and palmas (handclaps), a special appearance by female vocalist Gulabi Sapera, Hameed Khan on tabla, François Castiello on accordion and Bernard Subert on clarinette offer a wide world view. They touch on the sounds of flamenco, klezmer, far eastern and middle eastern modes drifting in and out. Thierry Robin's original tunes and shocking yet caring arrangements of traditional material make Gitans stand-out amoungst a crowd of excellent new Gypsy releases this year, as well as an antidote to all the Gipsy -pop-wannabies and new-age-syntho-pap flooding our desks.

    Oud perfectionist THIERRY ROBIN next eandeavor is a solo work, Le Regard Nu (Silex, via Harmonia Mundi). While the premise of the recording, composing solos on oud and bouzouki while sitting before nude models in his studio, is a bit pretentious, you can't argue with success, and these pieces have innovation, flair and passion when they are not bullied by the overdub, breathy voices narrating brief bits of poetry. A frustrating collection of wonderful instrumentals that requires a certain amount of wading to discover the gems.

    Serge Gainsbourg Couleur Café
    Mercury Records

    For the past few years, record label archives have been gleaned to provide an aural backdrop for the rebirth of tre-chic martini and cigar culture. Incorporated with the inevitable glut of reissues have been artists like Juan Garcia Esquivel, whose musical genius has distressingly only added another color to the modish pop-culture caricature. Included in the frenzy, but undeserving of a "lounge" label like Esquivel, is a superb trio of releases by French actor/songwriter Serge Gainsbourg, of which this is the most accessible and downright addictive.

    Splendidly re-mastered and re-packaged, Couleur Café rises from mothballs and forgetfulness in a blaze of pre-millenium hip-ness. A rare discovery in the current wave of schlock filled "exotica" reissues, the album has all the swing and sass of great 50's nostalgia while keeping its musical arrangements above water. Brimming with La Dolche Vita style and attitude, Couleur Café's songs were released between 1959 and 1964; a period of public interest on both sides of the Atlantic in the exotic Afro-Latin rhythms of cha-cha and mambo.

    Most of the tracks were released in bite-size morsels on 45's and movie soundtracks, except for nine songs from Gainsbourg percussions -- an LP of commercial delinquency despite its broader range of ideas.

    Many tunes clearly demonstrate Gainsbourg's unwavering interest in Afro-Latin rhythms as more than snappy accompaniment for his irresistible melodies. The early singles incorporate cha-cha and mambo, but by Gainsbourg percussions he uses Brazilian samba and African-sounding (really French) female singers in replacement of the tranquil congos.

    Essentially, Couleur Café's song craft could be further belabored through critique, but its absolute wit and stimulating rhythms will enliven even the most jaded listener; a metronome for those who enjoy a little accompaniment in shaking their martini. - W. Todd Dominey

    Mona Jaouen
    Mor Pe Wrac'h Kozh
    (Escalibur/ Diffusion Breizh, Kerangwenn, F-29540 Spezet, France)

    The Breton region is renowned for it's Celtic influenced folk music, but here is something entirely different. Jaouen sings in Breton, a language as expressive and percussive as any in the world. (Look at the impact Clannad has had in just one minute of car commercial!) She is part Mercedes Sosa, part Enya, moving from the ritziest phrase to the most lush chorus. Just as remarkable is the instrumental arrangements. Harp, Uillean pipes and flutes from the tradition are joined to piano, digeridoo, bandoneon, viola, horns and percussion. The mix is wonderful, not the lush wash of Clannad but a strong, individual sense of place that carries hints of folk, jazz and pure pop. Simple duets between voice and sax, trios of vocal, harp and pipes, full band productions; each has a charming simplicity that lets the real business continue, the voice of Mona Jaouen, an instrument that evokes the constancy of the ocean and the sorcery of the sky. - CF

    LAZARPERRY Tangodélic
    IMP/France via Qualiton, US)

    All fired up on Gypsy violins, jazzy upright bass and tango accordions, this trio goes far afield and makes its own music. Violinist Paul lazar, reed squeezer Franco Perry and bottom provider Camille Ballon offer up a set of tunes that reflect both the dark humor of new tango (and a number of tunes by master Piazzolla) and the joyous noise (and equally dark humor) of European Gypsy traditions (if there can be said to such a thing in such a rootless cosmos). Just when you think you have them pegged, they toss off a blues line, some funk and plummet into the depths of "world-fusion" a la Mustaphas and Combo. Their covers are disrespectful in the finest nueva tango tradition, their originals are surprising and witty, but never fall into the slapstick of the aforementioned fusers. This is an impressive debut album for any genre, but in a world overloaded with over simplified or over blown Gipsy and tango pop, this is a band that should be nurtured and encouraged to continue down the thorny path of innovation.

    You can never get enough squeeze, right? So how about three button accordions, a full blown chromatic and a bagpipe just to give it all a little color. Stir it all together and you get the quartet COCKTAIL DIATONIQUE (Keltia Musique, France). They present a varied program of traditioanal and original pieces, solo to full band, overlaying so many dromnes and appegios as to be dizzying at times. There are some virtuoso performances here, particularly their marvelous interpretation of "Acquarelli Cubani," composed by Luciano Fancelli, who the band refers to as "the Charlie Parker of the accordion." It's got great rhythmic attack and a fine swing. The other premier piece of the set is a soulful "Ma Commere, Ma Mie" arranged for bagpipes and chromatic box; lush and absolutely gorgeous. Then some Breton ballads, tunes, gavottes and drinking songs bring the album to its dénouement, a little accordion fired ragtime.

    Here is another excursion into the traditional routes of French folk via an extremely modern interpretive vehicle. This quintet blends the earlier centuries of violins, diatonic accordion, woodwinds and country vocal styles with highly contemporary portions of electronics, processed marimba, strings and percussion. The resulting mix is truly a work worthy of the title, as it is a brash painting on a crude wall, strokes of folk imagery with a modern message. This is almost something of a genre in the new European folk scene, with notable recordings from bands like Ritmia, Filarfolket, and two recent Corsican fusions (David Reuff's Tra Ochu E Mare and Hector Zazou's Les Nouvelles Polyphonie Corses). All of these bands share a similar attitude, to mark the passage of time with a celebratory spirit, to revel in the ancient sounds, the primal memories, without ever becoming enslaved by convention. Compagnie Chez Bousca joins this core group of innovative revivalists. This work is primitive- modern in the best sense. The accordions and violins give it locale, the synths and woodwinds an international attitude. But what really attracts me about this music is its inherent swing, a Celtic swing to be sure, but one that also harkens to the Hot Club and The Onyx Club. "Pakkos Cafe" could easily be in homage to O'Carolan or Django, the fusion is that smooth and intertwined at times. Other cuts share the same ability to fuse and confuse, without ever getting away from the fluidity that defines this recording.

    Never enough of these little boxes of wheeze, I always say. This week we have them from France and Finland. ETIENNE GRANDJEAN TRIO takes the folk/jazz approach to their music, featuring electric guitar, saxophones, and the diatonic accordion of Mr. Grandjean. Their album Circus Valse (Escalibur/ Diffusion Breizh, Kerangwenn, F-29540 Spezed, France) takes Breton folk and urban café music and squeezes it through a little Ornette Coleman. They add no percussion or rhythm section, opting for a spare sound that accentuates the skewed harmonies and humorous innuendos. Using mostly traditional sources, the results are anything but "folky." Romantic melodies merge into screwy counterpoints, Latin and jazz references sneak in almost unnoticed, and the trio continually surprises you with each turn of phrase. Grandjean is a masterful player, and his digitally enhanced solo piece "Les Pierres Sonnantes" is proof of his skill and creativity.

    Gabriel Yacoub
    Boucherie Productions, France

    Gabriel Yacoub has been turning French music on its ear for decades now, first as a member of the French rock band Malicorne, and then in a series of solo and ensemble albums that have ranged from guitar and voice alone to experimental works for synths. Through it all he has made music that stayed remarkably true to his roots.

    Quatre [Boucherie Productions] comes down in the middle ground, which is not to say mediocre. In fact, it may be his most fully realized work yet. It moves between traditional sounds and contemporary moods with flawless ease. The ancient vielle a roue (hurdy-gurdy) or the cornemuse (bagpipe) share an equal role with the synthesizers and electric guitars in exploring both the roots and modern tone of the record. The band is expansive, from the absolutely peerless hurdy-gurdy playing of Gilles Chabenat (who enthralled the New York City audience at their recent concert there) to the subtle bass lines of Yannick Hardouin. Backing vocals by Nikki Matheson throughout and guest chords from Paul Brady give it power. Koras, synths, percussion, oboe, violins, and guitars all blend into the background and support the feel without ever becoming trivial ethnic touches.

    But the heart of the matter is still Yacoub. His voice has matured to a rich yet unprocessed instrument, his guitar playing is intricate, percussive and perfect for his songs, which are the real meat of the album. When I first heard some of these new songs two years ago at a concert, I couldn't get them out of my head. I roamed around Finland for the week after singing "Le sel est sur la table.." and "les bannieres qui click-clack..." (the last being my literal interpretation of the sounds). Yacoub writes from simple ideas of love, life and the certainty of nature. But his songs have an urgency that complicates the message, and his melodies charge that complexity. Medieval scales meet harsh modern buzzes, folksy lines of notes become deceptively dark as they strike the minor chord. Every song has some surprise, be it a simple change in rhythm or a series of unexpected transpositions of key or melody. Yacoub is a master craftsman who never lets that perfection cloud the emotional content of his songs. - Cliff Furnald

    While there are bands in abundance resurrecting the folk traditions of Brittany, there are only a handful that are expandiing those traditions. Ti jaz is one of them. Starting with a band of bass, drums and accordion, they have added the instruments of jazz: saxophones, and the instrument of ancient France: the bombarde, a raspy, woodwind with a bagpipe-like sound. So, too, have they melded these musical elements, the melodies and ideas of early French music with the improvisation of free jazz and the gut of rock. They pay hommage to the "ideal jazz" bands of 1940s and players like Yves Menez, who used horns, fiddle, accordion and banjo to create a new French folk music. In that same spirit, Ti Jaz sprawl across the musical landscape, one minute a dark dirge on bombarde, the next firing off a slap bass and drum riff that would settle in nicely at The Knitting Factory. The eight instrumental works on Rêves Sauvages are sometimes chaotic, often lyrical and always challenging. They achieve power without electricity, a power intrinsic in the instruments and the source material.

    ORTOLAN Traditional Breton Music
    Keltia Musique, France fax:

    OK, they have removed the bagpipes from the mix here, but all the same, here's something to rasp the edges and rattle your cages: Ortonlon plays traditional Breton music on 12 bombardes. While this reed instrument is best known in the context of large pipe and drum bands called bagad in Britanny, here it is presented in solos and trios and on up to all twelve at once, accompanied by guitars, bouzoukis, violins, flutes and even a banjo. For those who love the raspy, reedy sound of these instruments, but don't care for the more regimented format of the large band, these recordings offer smaller ensembles in unique arrangements by players from some of France's best bagads.

    AD VIELLE QUE POURRA Menage A Quatre
    Green Linnet/Xenophile

    OK, so Furnald's in wheezer heaven with this one. Accordions, bagpipes and hurdy-gurdies; what more could I ask for?! After a brief stint as a trio, French-Breton band Ad Vielle Que Pourra is back to quartet status and better than ever. In addition to the rasp of the aforementioned tools, they have fiddles, piano, guitars (electric and acoustic), reeds, some percussion and even marimba and kalimba for color. But more importantly they have inexhaustible energy, humor and a wanderlust that allows them to rove the world at whim, while still maintaining a truly French bearing. Take a listen to their tribute to Nino Rota, "Cine Citta" as it blends those clear-toned marimbas with the raspy edge of the hurdy-gurdy in a cinematic wash that never loses its fringe element of folk. Brilliant in its simplicity, yet it has no lack of intricacy.

    But the heart of the album is more traditional in its roots if not in execution, from the jauntiness of what they call their Judeo-Celtic dance tunes to the Renaissance splendor of "Bransle Bas Con Bas," their fusion of three centuries of musical instrumentation into three minutes of sly turns and twists. Gypsy waltzes, folk-rock a la Québec, a tarondelle (the marriage of "Mrs. Tarantella and Mr. Rondeau") and a Greek bluegrass tune just show how far they think they can go and still call themselves true to their roots. They can, and they are.

    Chantuers et Musiciens en Limousin (Silex, via Harmonia Mundi). While the recordings were made between 19974 and 1991, they represent disappearing musical styles, performed by the older traditional artists who were carrying on the traditions of solo voice, accordion, bagpipes and fiddle, unfused and unadorned. Here's an excellent look at folk music in France as it still survives and endures.

    Bagad Kemper
    Lip Ar Maout
    Celtia Musique (France)

    There is little that compares to the roaring thunder of a Breton pipe and drum band. I had the good fortune to hear one of the premier pipe bands, Kevrenn Alre, last year, and now you get to hear another one, 13 times National Bagpipe Champions BAGAD KEMPER. The basic layout of the band is about a dozen bagpipes, a dozen bombards (a brutally raspy reed instrument) and a horde of snare and bass drummers. The output from this is a tremor and a clamor that shakes the very walls. The insistent drone of the pipes and reeds and the driving cross rhythms of the drummers are inimitable. Most of the tracks are recorded live, but they also use the studio to experiment a little, adding acoustic guitar and flute in ways that would be impossible in a real-time situation. They also go out of their own region on "Kopanitza," a well known Bulgarian dance tune in 11/16 time, again with the guitar and flute adding extra ambience to the unusual sound. -Cliff Furnald

    Hector Zazou
    Sahara Blue
    Crammed Disc (Germany)

    What do Gerard Depardieu, Khaled, John Cale, Bill Laswell, Ryuichi Sakamoto, and Mr. X have in common with poet Arthur Rimbaud? Zazou. Moving away from the geographic focus of his last album of Corsican music, this one is broader, utilizing his electronic keyboards to make a more contemporary sound. Each of Rimbaud's poems, in French or English, is given a unique setting. A dense dance music is used for "I'll Strangle You," (read by Depardieu, sung by Anneli Drecker). "Lines" is sung by barbara Gogan aginst a sparse electric guitar and woodwinds arrangement, punched by glittery phrases on the synths. "Hunger" is given one of the finest treatments in the set, John Cale a smokey presence on the stage of nightmare jazz cafe in Bamako, singing a balafon blues for Coltrane. Sahara Blue defines the categories and is just music. - CF

    Lo'jo Fils De Zamal (Fnac Music, rue du Cherche Midi, 75006 Paris, France

    Triban Lo'Jo isn't so much a band as a tribal entity, a changing group of musicians and artists who infect the music of France with Gypsy rhythms and Arabic beats, a cocktail jazz ensemble with the heart of an urban poet. Probably your closest encounter with this sort of music is Les Negresses Vertes, but Lo'Jo expands beyond the Green's punk attitude into something far more mystical. Classical piano riffs are overlaid by swirling vocals and reedy accordions, Arabic rap rhythms pick up a flavor of caf� culture gone wild. There's almost a circus like quality to Lo'Jo, a seemingly senseless bastardization of music that makes perfect sense when the lights go on in the center ring. The band is huge, a troupe of drummers, singers, accordions, horns, electric guitars and synths, and they assemble these tools to play African, Arab, Euro-pop and classical music in an endless array of cross-bred monsters and beauties. There's no real counterpart to the music they play, yet there is a growing number of bands in Europe who are bringing the world's cultures together in a new way, a uniquely urban and urbane European new music that holds promises and passions for the adventurous listener. - CF

    France: Musiques Traditionelles D'aujourd'hui

    The notoriously hard to get Silex label has found a solution, a compilation of some of the best new acoustic music to be found from Europe. The common thread is a deep respect for tradition, but not a slavish reproduction of it. All 16 tracks on the set are worthy of mention, but here's the standouts. Ricardo Tesi and Patrick Vaillant are from the Italian/French border area, and they blend together their accordion and mandolin in some of the most striking folk music I have heard in years, adding subtle marimba, percussion and wind touches. An even more contemporary approach is taken by Valentin Clastrier, who blends his hurdy-gurdy with clarinet, bass, strong percussive elements and horns in an evolving retelling of a French epic as cosmic jazz. There are a number of traditional Corsican singers and groups, as well as a track from David Reuff's acousto-electronic reinterpretations. From traditional fiddles to the outside edge of the Basque experimental aesthetic, Silex has compiled a broad and wonderful look at the new traditionalists of France. CF

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