Catalogue no. PIP1211
In their fourth CD, Uncharted Waters, Ensemble Polaris continues to break new musical ground while continuing to reflect the eclectic style, humour and colourful instrumental diversity that has won them fans around the world. The set list includes tunes with a sunny and sardonic Mediterranean vibe by Andrea and Marco Cera; Norwegian and French explorations of the waltz, and a tip of the hat to Brahms; Scandinavian tunes like the Steak Song from Särna, Valley Girl, Turnip Tune and Gånglåt fran Klockarberg; and wistful tunes from Orkney and Norway. Other original tunes on the disc take their inspiration from Montmartre, Balkan rhythms, reflections on the afterlife, and Canadian political photo-ops.
Marco Cera, guitar, jarana barroca; Kirk Elliott, violin, Celtic harp, mandolin, accordion, Swedish bagpipes, ukulele, bouzouki; Margaret Gay, ‘cello, guiro; Katherine Hill, voice, nyckelharpa; Ben Grossman, hurdy gurdy, jew’s harp; Alison Melville, baroque flute, recorders, seljefløyte; Colin Savage, clarinet, bass clarinet, recorders; Debashis Sinha, percussion; Jeff Wilson, percussion, birimbao.
The cover art features whimsical artwork created especially for this CD by Toronto-based artist LOREE OVENS. www.loreeovens.com
Beetroots for Nico (A. Melville)
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‘The clichéd CD title barely suggests just how far this fantastical recording sails far and digressively away from most every charted course known to music. A Norwegian lullaby, “Jeg Legges I Min Vugge,” from the baby’s point of view? Two wistful tunes dedicated to root vegetables popular in Sweden? Then there’s the poignant “Pasquale” that might be heard in an Italian village festival where “elderly people with blue wigs and artificial hips eat grilled pork with polenta, drink acidic wine and dance,” according to the CD liner notes…
Polaris further separates itself its rivals through finely polished musicianship…In truth it’s not how far afield we’re taken by Uncharted Waters that reflects Ensemble Polaris’ particular genius. It’s how the group leads us to re-discover what we’ve loved all along — a heartbreaking melody, a snappy dance beat — in the guise of some unexpected form.
Peter Goddard, Toronto Star (March 2012)
‘Ensemble Polaris is a rare gem, presenting the listener with a truly seamless musical eclecticism. They almost appear to have launched a new genre, pure and all-of-a-piece…Uncharted Waters is their fourth album, and the repertoire comes from all over the northern cap of the planet. How does a pack of geniuses create such a set of consistently beautiful songs? By sharing a vision, transcending the gruelling academic disciplines that have elevated them to the status of maestros, and dismissing their individual egos in order to take part in something truly marvellous. I tried to pick out a few favourite tracks but couldn’t. They’re all just too wonderful. The excellence of arrangement and performance is enhanced by an avant-garde adventurousness and an aesthetic that’s both classical and folk, as primal as it is postmodern. The diversity of this music harks back to the patchwork culture of the European port cities that admitted all manner of sights, smells, and sounds from the cities of the world.” Wanda Waterman, The Voice (March 2012)
‘With their latest release, Uncharted Waters, Toronto-based, multi-cultural, multi-instrumental, quantum world music group Ensemble Polaris continues to delight on all levels – conceptually, musically and creatively…the ensemble achieves a musical cohesion and level of communication and symmetry that might not seem possible on paper, given the diversity of the elements involved.’ Lesley Mitchell-Clark, The Wholenote (April 2012)
‘I enjoy folk music that leans toward classical music, and vice versa. Over the past few years I’ve had the opportunity to review some strong recordings in this category from the likes of Annbjørg Lien’s string quartet, Fiolministeriet, and Zenobia. Ensemble Polaris is a welcome addition to this cadre of genre-blending musicians…The dance tunes are the highlights here. Dry Toes Waltz comes from central France, and the rhythmic tambourine and melodic hurdy gurdy make me think of Roma campfire. Where Dry Toes is completely danceable, I Kopanitsa, based on a Balkan dance, is off-balance in amazingly fun ways. My feet can’t quite find the steps, and yet my heart urges me to dance anyway. And the Vals etter Vidar Lande is a hardanger fiddle tune without a fiddle. Yet the munnharpe, accordion, and cello underneath wordless vocals somehow conjure up the spirit of the hardingfele in ways my ears intuit but my mind can’t quite grasp…Even amidst all the changes in texture on this recording, the CD as a whole holds together extraordinarily well…a welcome blend of familiar-sounding music from northern European traditions combined with the classical composer’s quest to craft new sounds. I’m very happy to have been invited on the voyage.’ Greg Harness rootsworld.com