This is an utterly charming album by a young Galician duo. Aire! is the first album by these two musicians – Sabela Caamaño, who plays chromatic accordion, and Antía Ameixeiras, who plays violin and sings. They formed this duo in 2018, but both have been studying and playing music for many years, and both grew up loving Galician traditional music.
Sabela Caamaño, who also plays piano, has worked on film, recording and touring projects with numerous well known Spanish artists. She also is continuing her studies and teaches music in the Professional Conservatory of Music in A Coruña, and is part of the trio Quinta San Vitorio with Pedro Lamas and Sofia Portugal, and of the Europejska Orkiestra, directed by Roberto Somoza.
Antía Ameixeiras has studied classical and folk violin in Spain as well as in the Czech Republic and Bulgaria, and has studied jazz and improvised music in France and Spain. In addition to film and recording projects (with the likes of Kepa Junkera and Os Cempés), she has toured the U.S. with Galician piper Carloz Nuñez, and continues to collaborate with him.
On Aire! they synthesize all of those influences and experiences and, if you will, they strut their stuff. They’re joined by several unnamed collaborators on various wind and string instruments and percussion, as well as Sílvia Pérez Cruz on vocals and vocal arrangements, and Carola Ortiz on clarinet. It’s unclear whether Antía sings any of the vocals here or whether Sílvia handles them all – there aren’t many songs but the few there are are excellent.
Sequencing is always important on any album, especially one with mainly instrumentals, and they’ve done the job right on Aire!. It starts off with the driving duet “Florencio,” a delightful little waltzy tune that features just the two musicians, a perfect introduction. There’s a cute video for it on their website.
Second up is “Mercedes y Dolores,” where they bring out some of their guest musicians for a full-band experience. It begins all atmospheric and mysterious, with long deep drones on accordion and a throaty melody on fiddle. Before long, however, the flute enters, and some deep percussion from some kind of big frame drum, and the flute and fiddle and accordion all improvise nicely around the melody in a joyous counterpoint. By the end it’s a manic dance that points to a bit of influence from Carlos Nuñez’s type of arrangement. Then third up is the fast waltz “Alegría Dio’la dea!,” which conjurs visions of a sunny picnic frolic – there’s another accordion part, somebody on a banjo, spoons, and … either a saw or theremin. But the arrangement never overwhelms the sprightly tune.
The first half is rounded out with the wild Celtic/Balkan dance of “Buchimitsa” in a jagged stop-start rhythm and some heavenly bass clarinet; it’s sandwiched between the melancholy song “Se Souberas” and the lively musette waltz “Le bal de la Marine.”
The second half begins with my favorite. It’s the folk song “Maneo de Cambre,” which traditionally accompanies the well-known folk dance known as muiñeira. It opens with deep droning accordion behind lovely seductive vocals and strummed violin, then becomes a playfully dark dance in 3/4 time with klezmer-like clarinet and violin solos.
The rest of the program is very international, with the lilting “Maribel,” a Celtic jig that’s … well, just watch the video. It’s utterly charming, and I know at least one person who said it’s the first music video they’ve ever liked. (And it’s an earthy antidote to the too-genteel looking cover art, my only criticism of this album.)
It continues with the darkly playful, dynamic tango “Transatlántico”; the deliciously sweet-sad carnival waltz tune “Vals de pasmar,” complete with a muted trumpet; and ending with the soaring, harmony drenched title track “Aire!,” a folk song set to a driving Celtic-style tune.
Galician music has long been a favorite in my household, and it’s good to know it’s in good hands of yet another generation of enthusiastic and capable musicians. Caamaño & Ameixeira’s Aire! is a real winner.
(Segell Microscopi, 2021)