Somnambule - Writing About Music

Stian Carstensen ~ Backwards Into The Backwoods

Knowing Carstensen from Farmers Market and spying a sharpshootin’ cowboy on the cd cover leads to expectations of something like a jazz/folk take on bluegrass. The reality turns out to be stranger still. Admittedly, hillbilly elements can be spied on ‘What’s That Horsehead Doing On My Pillow’ and ‘(Look Grandpa!) Buckwheats On Bogweed’, the latter being a trio for banjo, percussion and piano, but ‘See Fair Lis’ is an opportunity for Arve Henriksen to deploy his choirboy falsetto to trill fa-la-laaas which when accompanied by spinet produces an effect that’s distinctly medieval. At times proceedings border on the frankly crazed, like a younger Bill Frissell subjected to a large dose of hallucinogens, while at other times the mellower pieces recall the generosity of Penguin Café Orchestra. Far eastern, eastern European, deep Southern, far northern – Backwards Into The Backwoods manages simultaneously to wander way off the beaten track and to trip round most points of the compass to singular effect. From each place Carstensen appears to have added to a musical smorgasbord whose unifying element is the sound of his accordion which appears halfway through proceedings in five short solo improvisations.
Colin Buttimer
April 2004
Published by Jazzwise magazine