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DEDALE "No Past" MusTraDem DPCD 95012

These guys are brilliant. The melody section consists of three stunning soloists, and they're backed up by a rhythm section that's there at the right times but never overpowering. On this album, their fourth, Dedale play exclusively their own compositions, but the traditional roots are clearly visible.

This is an entirely instrumental recording, with the main instrumentation being the button box of Norbert Pignol, the whistles and recorders of Christophe Sacchettini, and the hurdy-gurdy of Isabelle Pignol. Oh, yes, I forgot to mention - Dedale are French. Actually, it's easy to forget their nationality because this does not sound like French music is supposed to. It has similarities to La Bamboche at their best, and to Ti Jaz, but Dedale go further and faster. In fifteen years of listening to French trad folk, I've never heard the degree of energy and innovation which Dedale bring to their music.

And can they play! The musicianship is awesome. The woodwind struck me particularly, soaring over the other instruments with a life of its own, and not a finger or breath out of place. The first time I heard it, I was just so jealous! The box-player's no slouch either, playing the kind of stuff which usually only the Irish play on a two-row box, and also writing half the tunes on the album. Hurdy-gurdies are sometimes a matter of taste, but this one is so tasteful that I'd be amazed if anyone was put off by it. If you don't know much about hurdy-gurdy players, then this is a good place to start: if you're a connoisseur, then this lady will knock you out. She wrote the other half of the tunes, and can turn her wheel to Balkan, Berrichon or Blues as required.

The tunes are nicely varied, with tracks from under a minute to nearly ten, some quite close to traditional French dance music, others more experimental. There's a touch of bagpipe, a touch of dulcimer, a touch of clarinet, some nice slap bass, and just the right amount of keyboards and percussion. There's a live track thrown in for good measure, and a couple of nice titles: "Mensonge pour Danser", reminiscent of Wendy Stewart's "An Unfair Dance", "Dejeuner sur l'Herbe" with a suitably Rive Gauche feel, and three helpings of egg sandwiches, all in just under an hour.

Yes, I like this one a lot. I had heard of Dedale as a cult French band, and now I know why. This 1995 release should be available in the shops, and their 1996 album is on the way. Be prepared to be hooked.

Alex Monaghan

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This album was reviewed in Issue 17 of The Living Tradition magazine.