For me, there’s a stand-out track on this recording. When I heard it there was just something about it that grabbed me, and made me want to grab my fiddle to play along. But I’d rarely recommend just downloading one good track from an album. On Talabarte’s delightful CD – just titled Talabarte – there are a lot of lovely tracks, and you know that feeling when you put on an album, let it play and get surprised at what comes next… The music is often so much better in context.
The context here is that Galician trio Talabarte remind us that Galicia is part of Celtic music culture. I’m not big on Irish folk music, but the Galician sound is different. And this band has such a fresh lightness about them, it’s impossible not to feel the joy. Even my eight-month old boy is sitting there as I write, listening and doing his newly-learned clapping along thing.
Who are Talabarte? I’ve no idea, except that they’re from Galicia in Northern Spain, consist of 3 musicians variously on double bass (Kin Garcia), violins including viola and nickleharp (Quim Farinha), and accordions (Pedro Pasqual), and they make rather wonderful music. The CD short notes consist in explanations in Galician, Portuguese and Spanish (in that order)… of the meaning of Talabarte! It means something like lanyard or belt, I guess a special one that you wear in the Iberian peninsula. So I’ve learnt something. They mix it up with some light jazz approaches and a good dose of Balkan melodies and minor keys to compliment the largely upbeat Galician sounds.
Initially I wasn’t so keen on the opener Tres Golpes, a traditional Galitian tune. It’s laid back and broad. But having listened to this CD lots now – for pleasure, not just to review it, I find it a perfect way to easy into the interesting musical territory that Talabarte present.
Track 2 Pasacorredoiras Gorentoso starts with such a joyful bounce that would fill the dancefloor at a ceilidh in an instant. Composed by violinist Quim Farinha, it has a more fresh modern feel than the ancient tunes. The impeccably-recorded and light-fingered accordion takes a solo in the minor hinting of more Balkan to come. The melodic unison between keys and strings is tight and exciting.
Track 3 Visteme amodo que teno presa starts as a traditional Galician slow tea-waltz. Talabarte have a great recorded sound, everything is perfectly blended, and in particular the tonal quality between violin and accordion is a pleasure. It’s quite surprising what a full sound they make with their three musicians. I wonder if there is any overdubbing. The track segues into a faster piece from Segovia in Castille. Unison accodion and violin dance elegantly.
Sara is slower traditional Galician tune with some jazzy blues notes and scrunched up harmonies. It’s played with simplicity and no fuss, even in the solos. Some arrangements remind me of acccordion-tastic Motion Trio.
Santaigreb is a curious name that makes sense as the piece progresses. It’s trad. Galician with an angular melody. The tune starts in Santiago and then travels in the minor to Zagreb with a classic Balkan rhythm in the bass. The bass playing is fine and I’d like it to be very slightly more prominent in the sound mix. It ends in a Sepahrdic sounding slow-fast outro.
Track 6 Arbore-Struga starts with brooding hurdy gurdy sound – but that must be nickleharp – keyed bowed notes and a drone. Suddenly the melody appears, and – this is the track I love, there is just something about it – I get the shivers and arm hairs stand on end. I don’t know why because it’s such a simple melody, slow and stately. Maybe it is the perfect balance controlled emotion. It’s a gypsy (Romanes) song. That must be it! This slow, loaded tune moves into a faster Macedonian song. You can hear it played live here on a windy stage in the sunset….
Track 7 Vl’a l’printemps joyfully and has a lightly celtic bounce. But it’s not traditional tune, it’s by Belgian accordionist Bruno LeTron, who is worth finding out more about.
Track 8 is three trad Galicians numbers rolled into one with jaunty meloldies followed by jazzy diversions.
Abaniqueme by band accordionist Pedro Pascual starts with a broad groove before launching into Reich/Glass-esque repeated minimalist patterns that have found a maybe not-so-surprising resonance in folk music, heard with stuning effect in British band Spiro. Talabarte differ from Spiro in their bluesy improvised sections between driving rhythmic passages.
Track 10 Fendendo Achasis a band original. In two parts, slow-fast, here’s the second part used as a great track to accompany some tree-felling.
O Garotinho de Nebra is a funerial slow traditional Galician tune. I hope it’s not about something as gruesome as ‘a little garotte’! It segues into a faster bounce, so maybe the convicted guy escaped in the end..
La Route Des Avaloirs is another Bruno LeTron piece, who is a master apparently of dance tunes.
The closing Arrandiano begins in the low registers of accordion and bass – the now familiar slow introduction followed by a faster dance tune. A composition by Farinha with interesting twists and turns, it demonstrates well the creative dynamic between traditional song and new compositions. Talarbarte clearly demonstrate Galician tradition as very much a living, open and developing tradition.
This album was recorded between 2008 – 2011 – a reminder how long it can take to make good music. No matter, I hope this 2015 review will indroduce someone to some mighty fine tunes.