December 5, 2005
US CD Brainwashed HAND002
Daniel Padden - guitar, piano, clarinet, voice etc
Chris Hladowski - bouzouki, bow and clarinet
Peter Nicholson - cello
Aby Vulliamy - viola
Alex Neilson - drums
Released in a limited edition of 500 letterpress sleeves, handmade by Michael Babcock of Interrobang Letterpress.
VPRO Radio is most internationally known for their Mort Aux Vaches series and Brainwashed is honored to be blessed with the second release of the year produced live at VPRO Radio by the generous Berry Kammer and Maurice Woestenburg. The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden became the working name for Daniel Padden's extracurricular solo activities outside of Volcano the Bear. Two albums surfaced through Catsup Plate (US) and Textile (FR) almost completely recorded by multitalented multi-instrumentalisy Daniel Padden, himself. Following the two releases Padden assembled an actual ensemble and has played numerous concerts and fests around Europe. As a close and personal friend, Daniel Padden sent me the CD of the radio session. I was completely blown away at how incredible his band had transformed his songs into something so complete and fully realized. As many of the songs are older, they won't be recorded for the next album. I didn't want these recordings to go unheard or unnoticed. Live at VPRO Radio perfectly captures an amazing ensemble in the studio, and in a world which praises a lot of "new folk," there's something to be said for musicians who are incredibly talented and led by a fantastic composer and arranger like Daniel Padden. The music is stellar with the instrumentation of drums, vocals, guitar, cello, viola, and bouzouki, challenging the dogmas of western songcraft while never losing its step and falling down the beaten path of clumsy noisemaking or music school acrobatics. Like the Windy & Carl CD, "Dedications to Flea," this one is letterpressed in a limited edition of 500 copies by Michael Babcock of Interrobang (Isis, Converge, Hydra Head) and the music is so fantastic that I anticipate it will sell out just as quickly.
Volcano the Bear member Daniel Fadden's latest venture under his own flag enters the world via a limited edition (500) CD-R from the esteemed Brainwashed organisation (visited regularly by this writer for their fabulously Byzantine discographies of acts like Current 93, Coil and Nurse With Wound). It also comes housed in a marvellous letterpress card sleeve, reminiscent of the packaging of the Independent Projects label, which is all to the good, and places the listener in a receptive head space for band versions of Daniel's multi-faceted, multi-instrumental work. For here, Daniel's solo compositions are realised by a five piece ensemble: Chris Hladowski on bouzouki, Alex Neilson on drums and percussion, Peter Nicholson on cello, Aby Vulliamy on viola, and Daniel his own self on guitar and voice. It's clear from the outset that the ensemble approach and looseness of the live-to-radio format suit Padden's work very well. The overall feel is antiquarian, reminding one of everything from the soundtracks composed for Fassbinder by Peer Rabin, to various Greek, Eastern European and Middle Eastern traditions (and there are echoes of the work done by Magic Carpathians on similar foundations) and indeed deconstructed classical chamber music. 'Clown Flinging' begins and ends with nerve-jangling bowing, but coalesces into free-wheeling gypsy folk in between. The bouzouki-powered 'Mustard Mustard' is infused with the smoke of a thousand North African souks - one gets totally immersed in its celebratory, dervish swirl only to have the rug-seller pull his wares out from under you as the piece falls apart into a dizzying profusion of bowed dementia. 'Baltic Antiquarian' wears its roots partly on it sleeve, but the ensemble travels down a vector to the outer rim of sanity by virtue of Padden's pushing the envelope of his fractured Robert Wyatt vocal stylings. These will not be to everyone's taste, but suit the material here perfectly. On 'Norway Sleeps Norway', Padden's voice is more likely to please folk purists, but he's earned the right to be taken on his own terms. It's an astonishing track - a divinely memorable sea shanty suitable as much for plying interstellar trading routes as it is for traversing the oceans of Terra. 'Weevils' has the tortured soul of the best Rembetika - all it needs is the fisherman's cap and worry beads to accompany its ouzo-soaked waltz, Typical of many of the tracks on this release, it builds up a head of steam only to fall apart and then be reconstructed piece by piece. In a sense, it's a very Brechtian technique, drawing the audience in, then forcing it to analyse what is being performed by laying bare its circuitry for scrutiny. Remaining tracks 'The Tumble Waltz' and 'Farewell You Porcupine' (ha!) consolidate a superbly realised set, which achieves a level of virtuosity and creativity that few artists would match given unlimited studio time. One has to constantly remind oneself that it's a live radio broadcast. Listening to Padden's 'Live at VPRO Radio', it's difficult to take some of the other material flying under the free folk banner as seriously as one is clearly meant to. Like the Windy & Carl release before it on this label, copies will not last, so you know what you have to do. - Tony Dale, Terrascope.
Daniel Padden is one-[fourth] of Volcano the Bear and, as heard on his beautifully twisted recordings as The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden, a talented composer in his own right. No false advertising; the first two One Ensemble albums, self-titled (Catsup Plate) and "The Owl of Fives" (Textile), were almost entirely solo affairs with Padden manning everything from guitar, bass and percussion to piano, violin, bouzouki and voice to conjure a spectral gypsy folk/jazz informed by European roots, the early art pop of Robert Wyatt and the bizarre violin-scapes of Aranos. "Live at VPRO Radio" (the home of the revered Mort Aux Vaches releases) is a CD-R that comes via Brainwashed's Handmade Series in an edition of 500 in folded letterpress sleeves. It's both an extremely lavish and minimal package, which accurately reflects the haunted ensemble performances captured within. This edition of the One Ensemble is in fact a quintet, with stunning support from Chris Hladowski (bouzouki), Jandek sideman Alex Nielson (drums/percussion), Peter Nicholson (cello), Aby Vulliamy (viola), and Padden rounds things out on guitar and vocals. Like Steven R Smith's Hala Strana, The One Ensemble takes much of its musical inspiration from more unlikely, but still relatively familiar, territory and combines it with a free jazz or prog approach. Jewish Klezmer, Gypsy and other Eastern Euro styles are drawn into Padden's dense web of ominous tonal phrasings, only to be built up, distended, collapsed and rebuilt. Volcano the Bear's early albums play like Nurse With Wound covering Robert Wyatt's "Rock Bottom," so it's no surprise that Padden's take on European roots leaves plenty of space for freer deconstructions, but what is surprising is just how beautiful these new renditions of his earlier recordings are. "Live at VPRO Radio" is dense with abstract ideas yet manages the rare feat of being composed and spontaneous. Padden's Wyatt-like vocal warbles might be hard for some to wrap their head around, but such an emotionally expressive tone fits right in among this surrealist display. Had I heard "Live..." in 05, it would've easily been among my favorite releases of the year. (9/10) - Lee Jackson, Foxy Digitalis
This recording does what all good radio sessions do and then some. Multi-instrumentalist Daniel Padden (Volcano the Bear) has loosened his grip on the material from his virtually solo The Owl of Fives LP and recast it live with a ferociously elegant quintet. The performance of these seven pieces (some new at the time of recording and some re-titled excursions) are as open as they can possibly be while still holding in place the identifiable elements that define the song. The opening scrape, saw, and rattle of "Clown Flinging" is a deceptive beginning to a song steered by intricate strings and a mournfully sharp bouzouki melody. The instrument's clinking metallic chimes clank perfectly against the ever-reliable genius of Alex Neilson's (Jandek/Taurpis Tula) free percussion work. When Padden's own sing-along drunken caterwaul intertwines with the swooning viola, it's obvious that this set of songs has design at its core despite the slack reins. For a set of songs written and performed by the bandleader, Padden is surprisingly open with the improvisational spotlight. There's never the feeling that anyone is softened or curtailed from going with the freer flows by a diktat from Padden. The players are more than capable of bringing the most in the possibility of improvisations within these compositions. The album's air is thick with the sweat and steam of Eastern European traditional Gypsy music, heavy doses of Klezmer, touches of Flamenco, and Russian stylings. The cello and voluptuary viola build and capture the gorgeous driving windswept widescreen feel of these ineffably romantic genres. The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden may mine same territory as acts like A Hawk and a Hacksaw, Silver Mt. Zion, and Black Ox Orkestar, but this release packs in many more obvious moments of passion and merriment. Themes like "Weevils" and the strong rhythmic element of "Mustard Mustard" help conjure dancing desert ingenues and other unhelpfully atrocious stereotypes, but there's magic here. Where some of the eclecticism of Padden's solo and group studio work can sometimes sound like the kitchen sink wasn't too far away, this has everything in its right place. The mixture of traditional and the spirit of exploration give the music a fire and a passion that doesn't seem to be boiling over in much "modern" music lately. Padden's rousing shouts and chants (alongside another unidentifiable band members) add to the energy levels urging the band onwards toward almost anthemic heights. The music's complexity and the band's obvious vigour set a high benchmark for followers. The classical look of the handmade letterpress sleeve only adds to the overall impression that this is something special. VPRO have been lucky enough to catch one of those rare moments in time when a band are truly on fire. - Scott McKeating, Stylus
I must admit to being rather dismissive about much of the current wave of so-called "free folk," and certainly I've also been guilty of declaring much of the music it has produced as being the product of an insufferable scenesterism. However, I've also been among the first to praise the truly worthy examples of the genre, and this new release by The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden clearly demonstrates that amazing work continues to come out of the new folk zeitgeist. For all of the undeniably interesting music, performance and aesthetic ingenuity that this scene has produced, it has also spawned an equal amount of talentless opportunism and obnoxious marketing, and a surplus of overpriced limited CD-Rs and LPs filled with senseless cacophony of questionable musical value. I mean, how many different ways are there for a bunch of unshaved bohos to pound tunelessly on a bunch of instruments they never bothered learning how to play, anyway? Live at VPRO Radio was recorded live in 2004, in a performance by the Ensemble for the famous Dutch radio station, and it's one of the most stunning live albums I've ever heard, without a doubt. The performance captured in this radio session easily eclipses Daniel Padden's two studio albums, and also exceeds the rather high standards set by his previous work with Volcano the Bear. The seven tracks on this CD showcase a marvelously talented composer and arranger leading an ensemble of adept musicians through his startlingly unique sound world. Far from sounding like some slapdash, impromptu assemblage thrown together for a one-off gig, the group sounds as if they were born to play Padden's songs, and after hearing this album, it's hard to imagine them playing anything else as well or convincingly. As on his studio albums, Padden freely borrows from the '60s psychedelic folk of groups like The Incredible String Band, along with a wide variety of disparate ethnic musics, but unlike his albums, which often sounded jarringly eclectic, Live at VPRO Radio sounds gloriously cohesive: a triumphant spontaneous creation of a wholly idiosyncratic style of folk music. Though it is tempting to pick through and try to identify specific ethnic signifiers in this beautiful melodies created here by bouzouki, cello, guitar, viola and drums, all of the music here feels of a piece. Under the supervision of Padden, this group effortlessly draws upon a veritable constellation of tantalizingly familiar musical traditions--Jewish Klezmer, Gypsy, Russian and British trad-folk, etc.--but at the same time, manages never to directly reference any of them. Many of the songs are radically reworked versions of tracks that originally appeared on 2004's The Owl of Fives, but they have been retrofitted to work within the live ensemble context, and arrive much the better for these alterations. I mentioned ISB, and while the comparison seens an appropriate one, it also fails to get across the power and ferocity of these performances, many which build to loud, celebratory climaxes, Padden enthusiastically egging the band on with non-verbal chanting and cajoling. Though the players are drawn mostly from the free folk scene, it is perhaps inaccurate to refer to this album as a work of free folk, as each song is clearly a work of composition. However, the performances captured here do not seem over-determined or rigidly rehearsed. On the contrary, it seems as if the group feels perfectly confident to travel outside of the lines of Padden's songs, and his songs provide a wonderfully loose structure upon which subtle group dynamics and improvisatory passages can play an important part. I can't be the only one who has often wondered if ensembles like Sunburned Hand of the Man or Jackie-O Motherfucker might be better and more reliable if they actually took the time to write some songs. There isn't a moment of wasted space or directionless meandering on Live at VPRO Radio, because the group can always fall back on the strong backbone of Padden's impressive songs. Live at VPRO Radio is a gorgeous and hypnotic work that joyously trips and tumbles through a dark, mediaeval wonderland that exists only on an astral plane; a collection of whimsical funeral dirges for a merry band of wandering monks intoxicated on bad liquor and thujone. It is a collection of hymns to wood sprites and elves; it is the soundtrack to suddenly noticing the glorious spectacle of an ant crawling up a tree trunk carrying a leaf. It is a magical conjuring act by a group of trickster alchemists wandering in a foreign land. It is often all of these things and sometimes none of them, but it is always unmistakably beautiful music. - Jonathan Dean, Brainwashed
It is perhaps a bit confusing: The One Ensemble Of Daniel Padden, whereas the cover lists five players. The previous two albums by Daniel Padden contained music, all played by Padden himself, but as we are dealing here with a live album, it's not strange to see it become a real ensemble. Padden, who is also a member of Volcano The Bear, is assisted by people who play bouzouki, drums, percussion, cello, viola whereas the man himself plays guitar and sings. As the attentive reader probably noticed the recordings were made at the VPRO radio, by the very same (nice) people who delivered so many excellent recordings for Staalplaat's Mort Aux Vaches series, it's, when you hear this, not really a big surprise that they aren't released by Staalplaat. Although the series has many different musical angles, the music of Daniel Padden is very very far away from what Staalplaat releases. Padden plays a very personal version of folk music. Not always very skilled and trained, and the songs aren't the nicest ones, this is new folk, a somewhat more grim version of folk music. Rooted not just in folk (or perhaps, not at all), this has traces of free improvised playing, with elements of drone and noise coming in at the far end of the sound spectrum. Just as it's music that Staalplaat wouldn't release, it's also music that is vastly away from any daily appetite at the headquarters of Vital Weekly, but perhaps that's the reason why I must admit that I quite like this. Surely not music I would want to hear all day, but this release blew me away, just because it's so different than so many other things here (well, perhaps with the Panicsville/Spires That In The Sunset Rise 7" mentioned elsewhere this week). Moody new folk music that fits the dark short days of the time of year best. Very very nice. Just 500 were made - and I don't know why not on a real CD! - Frans de Waard, Vital Weekly
With a distinctive instrumental configuration of bouzouki, violin, cello, drums, and guitar, The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden mines a similar kind of 'nuevo folk' territory to A Silver Mt. Zion and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. Having originated the One Ensemble as a moonlighting project from his Volcano The Bear day job, multi-instrumentalist Padden produced two albums alone before assembling a touring group for European concerts and festivals, and it's this outfit that was captured live in the studio for the radio session.
The 45-minute album's opening attack clearly intimates that The One Ensemble is a band best heard live. After an opening flourish of string scrapes, "Clown Flinging" settles into a dirge before the folk dance "Mustard Mustard" finds the quintet alternating between reflective and thunderous passages. Aside from their shared predilection for elastically handled folk forms, there's one other thing that connects the One Ensemble's sound to A Silver Mt. Zion's: Padden's vocalizing, whichothankfully, on "Baltic Antiquarian" onlyorecalls too vividly Efrem's strangulated delivery. A more controlled approach in the epic waltz "Sleep Norway Sleep" renders Padden's singing much more palatable; his snarling yodel in "Weevils" even vaguely calls to mind David Byrne during Talking Heads' prime. The One Ensemble's sound may reference gypsy, klezmer, and Greek folk traditions but Padden and co. boost it with a fearless intensity and improv sensibility. Like Windy & Carl's Dedications to Flea, Brainwashed's inaugurating Handmade Series release, Padden's disc is available in a limited run of 500 letterpressed copies and will in all likelihood vanish quickly. - Ron Schepper, Textura
absolutely love it! - Aranos