Baltic Crossing, The Tune Machine

This disc is an absolute, unbridled joy. Five musicians—two Finns, two Danes and one Brit—use the instruments and music of Scandinavia to, as far as I can tell, have about the best possible time you can ever think of having. A fair amount of traditional music, including jigs, polkas, fiddle tunes—there’s even a Schottische in here—is woven together with new material and new ideas and instrumentation, including bringing things like Northumberland pipes to the music of Italy, or hardanger fiddle to the music of England.

The band ranges across European music with an academic gaze—in the notes for “Menuet from Falster,” to give a typical example, they write that the piece “was written down in 1917 by a lady called Karen Suder and collected by local musician Rasmus Roxværd”—though the object, very clearly, is celebration not curation. There are at least as many exclamation points in the liner notes as there are umlauts, which is saying something (it looks like someone sneezed, what with all the dots).

In any event, these musicans’ spirit and their ability is infectious, poignant, and invigorating. Sometimes, especially in the world of folk music, we forget about the big wide world out there, or that irony and sarcasm aren’t the only serious emotions left to us. This disc is a breath of fresh air and a reminder that we aren’t alone. Apparently we’re surrounded by Scandinavians.


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