Lucid Culture


Concert Review: Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers at Trinity Church, NYC 4/16/09

The hippy-dippy name is deceptive. Blue Moose & the Unbuttoned Zippers are not a jam band (although they probably could be) – they’ve taken it upon themselves to introduce American audiences to traditional Swedish fiddle music. Playing completely without amplification in the echoey confines of the beloved old downtown historic landmark, they impressed with their seemingly effortless command and unaffected love for the genre. Along with acoustic guitar, mandolin and violin, the band features a nyckelharpa, a cross between an autoharp and a viola, with keys and a set of resonating strings in addition to the usual four which are bowed or plucked.


Throughout the set, they often alternated between bouncy folk dance numbers and darker, more stately instrumentals, in addition to a vivid sea chantey and a wistful ballad, both with English lyrics, the latter delivered by the band’s two women on vocals and nyckelharpa. Several of the other pieces on the bill managed to be both rousing and hypnotic at the same time, aided by the band’s fondness for tunings that maximized the eerie overtones emanating from the strings. An original titled Burbank Street began with scatty vocalese from the two women, turning slow and dark and then light again with split-second precision. They wound up the show with a pretty, atmospheric waltz and a tongue-in-cheek original called Welcome to My Cave, its silly lyrics offset by the almost gleefully dark atmospherics of the melody. Fans of the well-known Scandinavian string bands like Frigg and JPP will enjoy this stuff; bluegrass fans should also check them out, they’re a lot of fun. If the hour had been later, there doubtlessly would have been people dancing in the aisles.  


April 16, 2009 Posted by | Live Events, Music, music, concert, New York City, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Frigg – Economy Class

Fans of string music have a lot to get excited about here. Frigg’s latest album is an uncommonly adventurous mix of genres blending traditional Finnish folk with rousing American bluegrass reels. Rich with melody and frequently lush orchestration, it’s something akin to JPP gone to the Grand Old Opry. The septet – three violins, viola, dobro and upright bass, often augmented by cittern, acoustic guitar and piano – take their name from the Finnish goddess (wife of Odin, mother of Thor). Three of the band members have ancestral roots in the legendary village of Jarvela, home to generations of famous Finnish fiddlers. The whimsical album title is somewhat misleading (the song was first conceived by the bandleader during a nasty plane ride while nursing an equally nasty hangover, reflecting on the previous night’s revelry). All but one of the cuts here are instrumentals (unless you count the boisterous“yabba yabba yabba” on the fast shuffle that kicks off the cd).


Many of the tracks mix up the beat, starting slowly and then building to a fast crescendo, frequently throwing in a tricky time signature. The second song on the album, Norsken is typical, beginning deliberate and midtempo with the strings flying over it, morphing into bluegrass eventually. Polka Internationale de Louisiane is pretty much what it sounds like, a Finnish take on a Cajun dance. When the Time Comes I’ll Be Ready is a slow 6/8 number with washes of strings on the intro, quiet with occasional pizzicato touches. The tongue-in-cheek Kind of Polka isn’t really a polka at all: it’s a gonzo bluegrass breakdown. The best songs come at the end: the long, captivating partita Northern Lights, with beautiful piano on its long, slowly crescendoing bridge, and a stately waltz, Lars Lenkelifot ,with a majestic, almost operatic choir of voices and a pretty outro with balmy horns over plinking washes of piano and acoustic guitar. This cd is a lot of fun, a real party record: it ought to resonate equally with devotees of the Finnish folk that got so popular here in the late 90s (JPP, Maria Kalaniemi et al.) as well as your more adventurous country music fans.

November 9, 2008 Posted by | Music, Reviews | , , , , , , | Leave a comment