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Appel Rekords APR1352

If I didn't know any better I would have said this is an album for a roller coaster of a European movie. I was whisked away back to a summery town square in Tocane where I once danced round the church with a handsome French was I...

The Naragonia Quartet is a Belgian group featuring accordions, violin, gaita, mandola and guitar. It plays music that is not only great to dance to, it also takes care of the heart and soul. It is dance music, but it is also what we here call ‘musicians music’ - very intricate, intelligent and musical lines of melodies based on a simple idea, arranged in a very skilful way, though not too artsy. And it is also very accessible for the inexperienced listener.

There's waltzes and then there is Hélène (track 2), played and arranged so that it has the sucking force of a tornado and you cannot help but feel you must dance or daydream or hum or something... There's a density to the sound that envelops the ear, especially on Devote Fishing. Not music you want in the background in a café - you would be permanently distracted from your conversation.

The amazing guitarist, Jeroen Geerinck, recorded this album and you would think that the equally amazing Maarten Decombel’s guitar would thus be overly present. It isn't. It is in its precise place, where Maarten does a beautiful job accompanying and occasionally floating above the melodies. Toon van Mierlo, Pascale Rubens, Luc Pilartz and guest hurdy-gurdy player, Grégory Jolivet, make melodies tumble and rumble alongside, across and over and under. No instrument drowns out another and each gets a place in the spotlight, like a storm of leaves of very different colours but driven by the same energetic wind.

This suite of almost soundtrack-like music is sometimes sad, angry or worried and then joyful, romantic and sweet. But there is an air of cheerful, sniggering mischief sneakily hanging over the whole album as well. This is an intense, gorgeous album, for any listener, but maybe especially to the bal folk dancing community and aficionados of Breton, Galician and Flemish folk.

Annemarie de Bie

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This album was reviewed in Issue 103 of The Living Tradition magazine.