Clavellina d’Aire’s Músiques Per Emportar-Se A Illes Desertes (Music to take away to deserted islands)

cover art for Músiques Per Emportar-Se A Illes DesertesThis is a curious album, but I can say without qualification, if you think you’d enjoy an album of sweetly sad music on accordion and violin, then Clavellina d’Aire’s music is for you. The title is translated by the record label as “Music to take away to deserted islands,” but I think in English we might just say “Desert Island Music.”

Clavellina d’Aire is a Catalán name for a type of bromeliad, also known as air plants. Clavellina d’Aire also is a musical duo from Barcelona, whose music could be described as vibrant and airy. Cati Plana, who has played in Sol di Nit among other groups, plays and teaches diatonic accordion at several schools and institutions, including the Folk School of the Pyrenees (Escola Folk del Pirineu). Similarly, Jordimaria Macaya plays and teaches viola and violin here and there, including the Folk School of the Pyrenees. Here he plays fiddles and also sings a couple of songs in an affecting baritone.

The publicity one-sheet that accompanied Músiques Per Emportar-Se A Illes Desertes is spare, and what there is of it is a slightly rough translation from Catalán. But as near as I can make out, these two musicians have a couple of aims with this album: to reinterpret in their own way various pieces of the folk music of the region (perhaps with some classical and popular influences thrown in), and also to write their own tunes based on the tradition. So, folk music of the Pyrenees as interpreted and expanded upon by this fine duo.

I hope you’re planning a lengthy stay on your desert island, because this is a long and generous program, 18 pieces of music clocking in at nearly an hour. And there’s a certain amount of variety, which is good. It’s not always clear which tunes are originals and which are from other sources, but it’s a pretty good bet that the one called “The Schwarzchild Radius” (El radi de Schwarzchild) is not exactly traditional. Because that title is a technical term from astronomy to designate “the radius below which the gravitational attraction between the particles of a body must cause it to undergo irreversible gravitational collapse,” or in other words to become a “black hole.” I assume it’s some sort of metaphor for human relationships, though how it relates to this bouncy tune with its stop-start, racy 6/8 rhythm is your guess.

A lot of the tunes on this album have a strong whiff of the French café music known as bal musette, sweet-sad accordion tunes based on various dance styles. Jordimaria sings on one of these, the French song “Petite Tonkinoise,” a sprightly march. Another song, “La Nina Encantada,” a melancholy waltz, has an entirely different feel.

“La Tosca” is a delightful waltz on which accordion and violin swap leads regularly, and finish up with a verse in unison. The “Bolero de l’Alcúdia” is apparently a well known dance from the village of Alcúdia in the Valencia region – you can find many examples of it on YouTube. The superb “Vals i Rèquiem per a un peix” (Waltz and requiem for a dead fish) is a cover of a tune by Clavellina’s fellow Barcelona musicians the Freak Fandango Orchestra.

The duo explores some dense chords on the pensive “Baixant el Montgròs,” which sounds like it’s partly or mostly improvised. “El Sultá” (the Sultan) sounds like it’s cribbed from a Dave Brubeck album featuring Anatolian rhythms and melodies. The closing piece, “Ací, astí i allí,” sounds like a transcribed indie rock song with its strong backbeat and the accordion and throaty viola swapping verses of the rather mordant tune.

For just two players and two instruments, Clavellina d’Aire packs quite a bit of entertaining variety into this well played, produced, and sequenced album. A strong set of folk-based music from Catalán.

(Microscopi, 2023)

Gary Whitehouse

A fifth-generation Oregonian, Gary is a retired journalist and government communicator. Since the 1990s he has been covering music, books, food & drink and occasionally films, blogs and podcasts for Green Man Review. His main literary interests for GMR are science fiction, music lore, and food & cooking. A lifelong lover of music, his interests are wide ranging and include folk, folk rock, jazz, Americana, classic country, and roots based music from all over the world. He also enjoys dogs, birding, cooking, craft beer, and coffee.

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