Ensemble Polaris – Vikings On Vacation – Pipistrelle

by | Dec 21, 2010 | Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews | 0 comments

Ensemble Polaris – Vikings On Vacation – Pipistrelle Bisma Bosma BBR002, 53:13 [Distr. by Naxos] ***:

(Marco Cera – guitar; Kirk Elliott – violin, Celtic harp, mandolin, accordion, bouzouki, bagpipes; Margaret Gay – cello; Ben Grossman – hurdy gurdy; Katherine Hill – voice, nyckelharpa; Alison Melville – baroque flute, recorder, seljefloyte; Colin Savage – clarinet, bass clarinet, recorder; Debashis Sinha – percussion)

A most unusual band, Ensemble Polaris, was formed in 1997. Their music is defined as the “Idea of North”, and represents compositions from Scandinavia, Canada and the Baltic countries. Utilizing an assortment of traditional folk and world instruments, the group has developed a stylistic approach, combining interpretations of eclectic international songs with contemporary modality. Exposure through Canadian music festivals and radio play has introduced the company to a widening audience. Their first two CDs, Midnight Sun and Not Much Is Worse, received critical acclaim.The latest project, Vikings On Vacation, continues the exploration of Nordic themes. With a variety of formats, the songs receive articulation by nimble instrumentation. A combination of recorder, clarinet, violin and accordion offer a breezy take on a bridal march (“Dalmarschen”). The addition of a mandolin adds a Western flavor to the piece. Another fresh song is “Nanatsu”, which lends a jazz/fusion aura to the traditional instrumentation. Three separate polkas are interpreted with different combinations. The ensemble is jauntily precise as they cover “La Rumba” from the 1963 Fellini movie,. A moody tango rhythm, with tempo accents, segues into an increasingly accelerated finish.

The band is eager to explore various tunes – some centuries old. “I Wish In Vain”, a beautiful melody, is shaped by the aesthetics of violin and Celtic harp (Kirk Elloitt). Elliott, a ubiquitous multi-instrumentalist, contributes an original five-song suite, “Cod’s Anatomy,” that showcases the versatility of the group. A departure from the core themes of the album is “You Lovely Island”, an homage to West Side Story. Katherine Hill lead vocals are featured on several tracks, but most effectively on the ancient ballad, “Visa Fran Venjan”.

Ensemble Polaris is talented, and Vikings On Vacation is evidence of that. The question is, will this music ultimately be accessible to a broader audience?

TrackList: Dalmarschen; Jungfrun Och Nakken; La Rumba; Nanatsu; Klosterjungfrun; Cod’s Anatomy: (Stir It All About/ The Little BlackFox/The Mysterious Murder Of Max Penney/ Farewell To Little Seldom/Reel From Doran House); Visa Fran Venjan; You Lovely Island; Polska For Alban; Polska EfterAnders Liljefors; Anna Och Wilhelm; Polska Efter Byss-Calle; Emil Goes To Market; I Wish In Vain

— Robbie Gerson

Related Reviews
Logo Jazz Detective Deep Digs Animated 01
Logo Pure Pleasure