After listening to Farmers Market’s 2008 release on Ipecac, Surfin’ USSR, I went over to read their Ipecac bio. It started about as I expected.
The music of Farmers Market is a mixture of Bulgarian folk music, jazz standards, popular music and humor.
But then the next sentence kind of floored me.
Farmers Market has become one of Norway’s most popular live bands….
So yeah, as if you needed further proof that Norway is awesome, here we have a free jazz band from a nation of about five million people that also specializes in folk music of the Balkan region. And even beyond that, it’s awesome.
This isn’t free jazz in the artsy-fartsy deeper-than-the-ocean-blue sense where they’re kind of working with some intellectual but not necessarily aesthetically pleasing concept. On the contrary, these are songs in the traditional Western sense with a predominant influence–melodically, harmonically, instrumentally–from Eastern Europe folk music (think gypsies, horns, accordions) meshing perfectly with a standard rock and roll line up of drums, bass, and guitar. The performances are virtuosic, the sound is crystal clear, and the music is lively, endlessly interesting, and, as a result, a ton of fun.
The first half of the album is perfect. The band lays out a variety of musical styles, from metal (“To Hell And Baku”) to sweeping-strings-style, Italian-esque pop (“Lodtschitze Mini Maritza (Ferry Cross The Mersey)”, which probably shares best track honors with “From Prussia With Love”) to a predominantly vocal track that sounds Middle Eastern or at least modal in its harmonies (“Dissident Harmony Sisters Camel Call”).
The second half, though, doesn’t quite measure up to that five-clown trajectory. The band loses its focus as the clarity of message is lost among meandering solos, frantic near-noise sections, and too-long tracks without a clear thesis. There are still a bunch of great parts on the back half, it’s just that they’re not the kind of concentrate you get from the first-half mainline.
Anyway, way to go Norway for figuring out yet another niche the rest of the world didn’t know it needed and filling it. As for the rest of the world, you should be ashamed. Or at least be properly deferential to all from Norway.
– “Surfin’ Ussr,” “Lodtschitze Mini Maritza (Ferry Cross The Mersey),” “To Hell And Baku,” “From Prussia With Love,” “Ladyboy’s Night At The Cultural Relativism Saloon”
– “Surfin’ Ussr Pt. 2,” “Anyone Who Remembers Vladiwoodstock Wasn’t There!,” “Dissident Harmony Sisters Camel Call,” “Traktor Tracks Across The Tundra,” “Red Square Dance,” “The Dismantling Of The Soviet Onion Made Us Cry,” “Steroid Train Trip,” “Meanwhile Back At The Agricultural Workers Collective,” “One Day, Son, All I Own Will Still Belong To The State,” “Yagoda”
– “Kalshnikov Wedding”
Song Notes: After the jump
- Surfin’ Ussr – The horn solo for the last minute or so is incredible.
- Surfin’ Ussr Pt. 2 –
- Lodtschitze Mini Maritza (Ferry Cross The Mersey) – awesome
- Anyone Who Remembers Vladiwoodstock Wasn’t There! –
- Dissident Harmony Sisters Camel Call – Counterpoint and accompanying harmony are awesome.
- To Hell And Baku – Sounds like Patton’s on this one, and sounds like something he’d do with that crunch guitar sound. Solos are so metal. Awesome.
- Traktor Tracks Across The Tundra – starts off very slow, slide guit. only like 75 seconds long.
- From Prussia With Love – Funk guitar. Sweet rocking flute riffs.
- Red Square Dance – Almost eight minutes. Daunting. It’s good, it’s just a lot. And ends up manic at the end.
- The Dismantling Of The Soviet Onion Made Us Cry – Takes a while to get going with a big long, almost free sax solo up top. After that there’s a sweet section, but by the end of the track it’s got the too much/manic thing of the last track going on.
- Kalshnikov Wedding – Three song weak stretch here and this might be the weakest. This album is too much as it is, and they really could have made it so much easier to swallow by cutting some of this stuff in here. This track in particular is just meh, boring. Completely unnecessary. Trumpet(?) and drum solos, so I wonder if they’re the ones that insisted it make the cut. Only explanation.
- Steroid Train Trip – Very nice, but I don’t need that jam bad dueling banjos stuff.
- Meanwhile Back At The Agricultural Workers Collective – What is that instrument? I want to get this CD just so I can read the liner notes. Love the start of this.
- Ladyboy’s Night At The Cultural Relativism Saloon – Isn’t it impossible for a human to play the horn that fast? My god.
- One Day, Son, All I Own Will Still Belong To The State –
- Yagoda – female vocals like on camel