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Dis Tanz

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DisTanz is a worthy successor to Voix de Surface, mixing the charm, warmth, and intimacy of Eastern European folk music with the off-kilter sensibilities of the avant-prog bands of the Rock in Opposition school. Following Voix de Surface, cellist Tom Cora and multi-instrumentalist Jean-Vin Huguenin left Nimal, reducing the group to a core trio of Momo Rossel, Bratko Bibic, and Pippin Barnett. And while Cora's signature rough-riding cello in particular is missed, DisTanz still fares quite nicely, thank you, given Rossel's remarkable abilities on a multitude of instruments (including guitar, hurdy-gurdy, bouzouki, bass, and sampler), the inventive contributions of accordionist Bibic and drummer/percussionist Barnett, and the appearances of various guest musicians, notably bassist Nino De Gleria on many tracks and clarinetists Cédric Vuille and Pierre Kaufmann on the complex, multi-sectioned "Grand Carré." However, the uniformly strong compositions — over half penned by Rossel — remain the album's most winning feature, harder edged than folk, stranger than mainstream rock, rougher and earthier than classical music. The album's best pieces, like "Od Tukaj Do Zdaj" and the aforementioned "Grand Carré," are filled with unexpected twists and turns, as joyous folk dances segue into driving, rockish interludes and the ubiquitous skewed rhythms keep everything engagingly off balance. The mood shifts are striking as well — from the almost childlike innocence of the sprightly title track, featuring Bibic's sing-song vocal and whistling, to the inexorable, syncopated dirge tempo of the darkly dramatic album closer "Campagnes," in which Barnett's driving percussion and Rossel's hurdy-gurdy and sampler ultimately triumph over Bibic's accordion, drowning it out in a gradual buildup that ends with an abrasive, distorted wail at the final fade. On DisTanz, Nimal draws inspiration from the early solo work of Fred Frith (particularly Gravity) and from other avant-prog artists of similar vintage (the warmth of Lars Hollmer, the darkness of Univers Zero), but the group is ultimately more than a mere catalog of such influences. Voix de Surface excels in documenting the five-piece, festival-ready version of Nimal, but DisTanz is equally compelling as an expertly conceived studio project, an often cinematic recording that can be easily recommended to listeners of the avant-prog persuasion.

Dis Tanz, Nimal
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