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INTARSIA - Sistere 

INTARSIA - Sistere 
Coth Records COTHCD013 

Bright and breezy, optimistic sounds from Derbyshire duo, Sarah Matthews and Jo May: viola, violin and vocals from Sarah, plus Jo’s cornucopia of percussion. Prominent in the latter is the balafon, a large wooden xylophone of West African origin. This gives the album much of its instrumental colour, although it’s not used on every track. There are 11 instrumentals and four songs, giving a playing time of 63 minutes, bucking the trend for shorter albums.

In recent years, a number of groups have adopted a chamber music-like approach – I have the sound of a string quartet in mind – and while this is often very effective, Intarsia’s offering of a brighter, more ‘open’ sound palette is rather refreshing.

Of the tunes, the pairing of Les Doigts De Carmen (Evelyne Giradon) and Round The Corner (Andy Cutting) makes a fine set, and Sarah’s See No Evil, written for the dance side Stone Monkey Rapper, is representative of the very danceable articulation of much of the material – great percussion on that track too.

The duo has a fondness for the 7/8 time signature, which adds to the originality of the selection – as does the choice of a Take That song! It’s the starker (and least optimistic) song that works best for me, however; Bill Caddick’s The Barmaid’s Song.

The group name and album title? Intarsia is an elaborate form of knitting, the idea of intricate patterns being the musical connection, while Sistere is Latin for “to stand still” – somewhat ironic given all the dance tunes! This is a fine and original album, and it will be great to see Intarsia out and about again when circumstances allow.

Paul Mansfield


This review appeared in Issue 138 of The Living Tradition magazine