You might have to be an enthnomusicologist to get Hotel Palindrone right, but you don't need to be one to get them. While they are the perfect definition of musical dichotomy feeding on theme and variation and variation and theme, they do it in a very structured but anarchic way. That may sound confusing in black and white, but aurally it is sometimes downright amazing. Mix baroque with traditional European folk filtered through Aaron Copland and Planxty, toss in a bit of Mozart and a yodel or two (and some damn fine yodeling, too) and inject a combination of Grateful Dead and Van Der Graaf Generator and you have some idea of the music, though not much. Oops. I forgot Gryphon. While listening to this, more than once Gryphon popped into my subconscious.
It is hard enough to do what the Palindrone's do without the chops and this could have been an ungodly mess, but not only do they have them, they feed off of them. Get the list of instruments they bring into their world: bagpipes, jew's harps (I don't think they are quite as politically correct as in the United States where a less offensive term has been given those venerable instruments), clarinet, bombarde, shawm, willow flute, fujara, violin, hurdy-gurdy, diatonic accordion (can't play this stuff with a plain old accordion, by the gods), nyckelharpa, octave violin, mandola, bouzouki, guitar, piano, bass and tenor and soprano saxophones—all those handled by four musicians. Well, not at once, but at times you might think so.
When I first started listening, I took notes but found them worthless. Phrases worked through my head like "progrock on traditional instruments" and "modern classical in a progrock petrie dish" and even tried to weld "traditional" with "progressive" in some form or another, but the word picture (or aural, in this case) eluded me. Still, a couple of short lines came close. For instance, Krupolskan Efter Gotthatd Sjöman, a work based upon the traditional, mounts an intense jew's harp attack which works into a Van der Graaf-like melange. Huh. And, Almschrei & Lydischer Schleuniger yodels its way into a cinematic tour-de-force centered on piano and flute themes, very upbeat and magical in their interplay. When I re-read those lines, I thought, "What the hell?". When I listened, though, that is what I heard.
This is not an album I choose to hear when I am ready to rock out or lay back, but I find the themes and especially the incredible musicianship creeping into my thoughts at the oddest moments. I searched the name on the Net and came up with a ten year fest video (among many others by this fine band) which I visit often. They play Amschrei and it is quite remarkable, the four of them stuck on a tiny stage playing music worthy of eight or ten, the audience silhouetted in the foreground doing their little cartoon-like dances, obviously enthralled by the music. The video makes me laugh because of its Pied Piper aspect and the music is amazing.
It is not surprising in this day and age that Hotel Palindrone exists. What is amazing is that more people Stateside have not found them. These guys are the epitome of what many people say they want in their music—innovation, creativity, adventurousness, professionalism, talent. If that is what they want, it is here. Pull this out at your next party and prove you're at least one step beyond the norm. You might kill the dance floor, but there are dance floors everywhere and the important thing is that there is only one Hotel Palindrone.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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