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Talking Elephant TECD454 

This is a band selected compilation of recorded and live favourites (two are indeed live recordings) from their four album releases from 2009-2017 - Lipreading The Poet, Doors At Eight, Layers Of Ages and The Wife Of Urban Law; get that title now?

Keystone Peter Knight’s effortlessly exquisite and elegant fiddle playing, drawing on classical training and experience in free extemporisation, is fundamental to the group’s creatively composed rearrangements of traditional material which forms the majority of the content. Intensely melodic and mellifluous, lusciously legato and kaleidoscopic in its colours, the timbral character of Peter’s violin, from reverberative, resonant depth to the lightest shimmering, is so recognisably his own.

Guitarist Roger Flack has been a distinctive tonal presence throughout the Gigspanner venture. Whether lightly shading or richly colouring the crafted compositions, his precisely expressed and perfectly weighted, often subtly spacious and intelligently restrained, electro-acoustic sounds, are ever empathetic in their wide range of both delicate and dynamic interplay with the fiddle. The third element of the trio is the masterful percussion of Vincent Salzfaas and (since 2016 and the last release) Sacha Trochet, assuredly adding further textural detail and rhythmic sophistication in equal measure.

Combining to realise a wide sonic spectrum, from passages of achingly tender and fragile beauty through to pulsing sequenced patterns of progressive music, Gigspanner achieves both dramatic and mesmeric qualities, particularly in its expansive instrumental elongations of classic traditional material such as She Moved Through The Fair, The Butterfly, Death And The Lady and Hard Times Of Old England, each epically over eight minutes and two of which include (with two other tracks) Peter’s characteristically reedy vocal.

Anyone interested in contemporary music should be aware of Gigspanner, a group flourishing and fertile in its creation of music with deeply atmospheric and arresting qualities. Comfortably embracing a gamut of genres from classical, jazz, world, folk and rock, as is strikingly evident here, they have imaginatively reanimated and developed traditional music pieces in a delightfully intricate manner and style.

Kevin T. Ward


This review appeared in Issue 140 of The Living Tradition magazine