Various performers: fern-nah-weit
01. Erika Stucky: Yodelmom; 02. Natur Pur: Dr Sunnahalbler; 03. Christian Zehnder: Das Mjandrio; 04. Weisenblaser Der Munchner Philharmoniker & Windbone: Magdalena Weis Teil 1/ Secret Room / Haboub / Magdalena Weis Teil 2; 05. Yellow Bird: Your Cheatin' Heart; 06. Black Patti: Blue Yodel No 1(T for Texaa); 07. Baka Beyond: Firefly Yelli; 08. Monika Drasch, Maria Reiter & Friends: Jodelhalleluja; 09. Yellow Bird: Tennessee Waltz; 10. Christian Zehnder: Triohatala; 11. Natur Pur: Chuareihali; 12. Erika Stucky: Can't Compete / Em Hans sine; 13. Baka Beyond: Marriage of West with East; 14. Monika Drasch, Maria Reiter & Friends: Ari Suite; 15. Natur Pur: ds 30gi.This CD contains performances from two concerts that were part of a festival with the same name as the disc, which took place in Munich in June 2016. As the notes inform us, 'the festival's remit was to present not simply Alpine yodelling, but the whole variety and diversity of this vocal style,' and the musicians presented 'a gamut of styles from traditional to pop, world music and the avantgarde.'
There seem to be two issues for readers of this website: are they, like me, comfortable listening to music in all those genres? And if the answer is yes, are the performances on the CD worth their attention? Whether the disc presents 'the whole variety and diversity' of yodelling is another matter, and one that I'm not equipped to judge, but that's not relevant to its success or failure in isolation - although it's surprising that New Grove has no separate entry for 'Yodel', and thus no discussion of the technique's geographic and cultural range, nor of its functional diversity.
In the sense that I think the notes want us to understand the term (that the performers are all members of the culture from which the music springs), the only traditional music here is performed by Natur Pur, four men who are 'from the Muotatal, an isolated valley in the canton of Schwyz [and] one of the last groups performing their homeland's archaic yodels.' These are pleasing performances, and they are indeed 'a far cry from the polished singing of the yodel choirs found across Switzerland.' My wife and I encountered one of those at a folk festival in Latvia (as you do), but only for long enough to gauge and flee from their saccharin gentility; no fear of that here, especially when Natur Pur call the cattle home on Chuäreihäli. Doubtless I am not the only one puzzled by the title of their third track. For what it's worth, my best guess is that it puns on drissig, Schwytzerdütsch for thirty, and Drisgi, a settlement in Zurich canton.
The British-based group Baka Beyond includes a Congolese and a Sierra Leonean member, and thereby accounts for three of the seven countries from which performers at the festival came. They 'combine the music of the Baka people of the Cameroon with celtic [sic] sounds and world music grooves,' as I expect many readers of this review will already know. The band's interaction with the Baka people and their music has been of long duration, and at a far from superficial level, and the two performances here successfully achieve the synthesis referred to in the quotation.
On an axis from folk to art, or traditional to non-traditional, Yellow Bird and Black Patti represent the pop component of Trikont's 'gamut of styles.' The latter duo, here playing guitar and mandolin, are earnest European blues wannabes, and I hope it's not too uncharitable to observe that, being Munich-based, they would have saved on transport costs. Black Patti certainly don't 'recreate the music of the days when Robert Johnson was king' sic [and let's not waste time excavating the ignorance, about both Johnson and his context, embedded in that.] They don't even do a very good job of recreating the music of the days when Jimmie Rodgers really was something like king: their English is better than my German, but it's jarring when 'Gonna shoot poor Thelma' emerges as 'Gonna suit poor Telma.'
Yellow Bird are determined to apply creative originality to their American sources: they are two women singers, American and Swiss, who are accompanied by three Berlin jazz musicians (playing guitar, banjo, clarinet and percussion), and augmented by Austrian yodeler Marie-Theres Härtel. Härtel's powerhouse yodeling is certainly the most appealing part of two mannered performances which favour breathily whimsical lead vocals that are often deliberately and irksomely out of time.
Monika Drasch et al are a four-person ensemble, all of whom sing, accompanying themselves on violin, recorder, bagpipe (all played by Drasch), accordion and acoustic guitar. They play updated versions of ari, which are 'slow traditional pieces with simple melodies from Lower Bavaria.' In my judgement, the Handelian arrangement on Jodelhalleluja is the more successful performance here. Ari Suite, described as an updated version of an ari titled 's Konzellerer Dörfi, includes a stirring bagpipe obbligato, and ends with an attractive, unadorned vocal ensemble; but elsewhere it can't make up its mind how avant garde it wants to be.
Windbone are a Swiss duo who play 'alpine horn, trombone, and conch shell in an experimental spirit', here teamed with four horn players from the Munich Philharmonic Orchestra, who begin with a folklike melody before things take a sharp turn into the avant garde. The two groups only had one rehearsal, and I'm afraid it shows: there's little connection or synergy between them, and the improvisation is seldom either impressive or surprising, although I make an exception for the James Brown-like funk grooves achieved on alpenhorn during Haboub. The yodelling connection is pretty tenuous here, consisting only in the fact that Magdalena Weis Teil 2 is based on a yodel.
Which leaves Erika Stucky and Christian Zehnder, both avant garde musicians who yodel, among other vocal techniques. Zehnder also plays 'the Wippkordeon a bastardised accordion played vertically.' All I think that needs to be said is that Zehdner's music, which also incorporate Tuvan-style throat singing, seems to me to be successful in its own terms, but in no sense traditional music, despite its incorporation of traditional techniques; and that Stucky is also an experimentalist, with, especially on her second title, a fatal dose of pretentiousness added to the test tube.
I'm afraid that this CD doesn't offer enough, either in terms of traditional content or musical quality, for me to recommend a purchase. Better, I suggest, to investigate Natur Pur's own CDs, available from their website at <http://www.naturjuuz.ch/>, or the Baka peoples' music, unadorned on Heart of the Forest <http://www.baka.co.uk/baka/album_heart.html>, or in collaboration with Baka Beyond. And since I don't wish to be excessively negative towards Trikont's efforts in this field, let me also recommend American Yodeling 1911-1946 (Trikont US-0246-2), which is usefully reviewed at <http://www.allmusic.com/album/american-yodeling-1911-1946-mw0000220475>. It includes this, by the wonderful DeZurik Sisters, <https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=DNYDyXn6qso>, which is far from the only reason to purchase.
Chris Smith - 9.1.17
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