Mike Stiles wrote this review.
At first glance at a bi-cultural collaboration like Polska pa Pan, I’ve come to expect one of two possibilities. The collaboration can be an exchange of traditions or it can be slanted towards that of one of the participant’s. This CD definitely is in the latter category, but the project is so well executed I can easily live with it.
The basic crew consists of Alban Faust on nyckel (chromatic) harpa, mora (diatonic) harpa, and the Swiss and French bagpipes and Josue Trelles on the Andean pan pipes, the digderidoo, and the quena (Indian flute). The liner notes do not credit the various other players on percussion, strings, and vocals, nor does the play list correspond to what was recorded. Those minor details really drove me nuts trying to figure out who was where doing what and when.
Alban’s material and arrangements are reminiscent of John Renbourn’s. It should perhaps be no surprise that he incorporated student Josue in much the same way that Renbourn did tabla player Keshav Sathe on the English trad album A Maid in Bedlam.
On this CD of acoustic baroque Nordic songs, Josue blends in like a chameleon on his favorite tree. The effect is striking, if pre-defined in scope. Josue’s work on the digderidoo and flute is pretty clear. His pan pipes are usually found in a stratum alongside the bagpipes or running along the harpa. It takes a good sound system and a purposeful ear to hear the pan pipes at times. I began to marvel after a while about the lung capacity behind Josue’s playing. The bagpipes have the bag to regulate power, but Josue keeps right up with both droning and melody on the pan pipes. The photo in the liner notes suggests that the pan pipes were made from raw tree branches, which implies no mean feat to get them into range and timbre with the European instruments. I wonder who is really the master and who is the student here.
Altogether, this CD offers an enjoyable collection of original and traditional Nordic music. The production quality is quite good and reflects the fact that the recording was done live in a church at Dalskogs, Sweden. Perhaps the next project from this duo will be an all-Andean suite recorded live in the jungle with creative Nordic back-up.
(Tonart CD, 2002)