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TRIO DHOORE - Modus Operandi

TRIO DHOORE - Modus Operandi
Appel Records APR1346

Belgium - a dirty word in certain contexts, but not in traditional music these days. Some remarkably good groups have come out of Belgium recently, despite the fact that not much recognisably Belgian tradition has survived. Sitting at the confluence of French and Dutch traditions, Belgians tend to lean one way or the other - and Trio Dhoore seems to me to lean West. Although all the music here is freshly composed, it follows on from the modern French genre which nurtured Dédale, Djal, Patrick Bouffard and others. There is a dark streak in the music, a bit of Breton influence maybe, and certainly elements of other traditions from Spain to Estonia, but if I have to put a label on it, Modus Operandi sounds broadly French to me. The name of this group led me to expect Balkan or Celtic roots, but the three Dhoore brothers seem to be Flemish at heart - from Ghent I believe. The sleevenotes are helpfully provided in Dutch and English. Mostly English, anyway.

What do I mean by French? Diatonic accordion, hurdy-gurdy, French or Flemish pipes lead the melody, with guitar accompaniment, giving something close to an Eastern French sound. Touches of whistle and mandolin and a few guests from Hot Griselda and other bands, add ancient and modern influences from Ireland to India. Koen Dhoore's electro-acoustic gurdy provides a solid core for the trio, with a very flexible right hand and a sure touch on the melody (which, as you all know, is played with the left hand on a gurdy). Hartwin and Ward are the composers, playing reeds and frets respectively. The button box is not quite as assured as the gurdy, but it takes the lead on the charming waltzes De Kollebloem and De Yurt and on a few other tracks. There are a lot of triple-time rhythms here: waltzes, 3/4 bourrées, mazurkas, gigues and more. Ons Sunny commemorates the "mighty trunk" of - no, not an elephant - an old Nissan car. The guitar air Coffee Break and the slow march Vanna Rühnu Kirik have an Estonian connection, with Eastern harmonies and unfamiliar cadences from the neglected Estonian piping tradition. Trio Dhoore flow straight into Parketpolka, a more Dutch-sounding tune, which really highlights the different styles. And so the wheel turns, back to French, a little Balkan or Baltic, building to the final few dance tunes. I've listened through Modus Operandi a few times now, and I'm still finding new facets: a thoroughly enjoyable CD from a record label I hope we'll be seeing more of.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 99 of The Living Tradition magazine.