L'Occidentale Dr Fanfare
Old Fruitmarket, Glasgow, Tue 30 Jan
First, a credo. ‘We have arrived at the time of Fusion. The era of conventional folk music had to travel through the social and cultural storms of the 20th century in order to emerge fully in the 21st. Some medievalists claim that the middle ages were invaded by television - musical expression, however, took a generation or two longer to shake off its traditional prejudices. When it did, it brought the end of musical sectarianism, “tunnel hearing”, and the decline of “folklorism” in music.’
So declaims the French band L’Occidentale de Fanfare on the sleeve of the album Hopopop. The qualities that mark this 16-or-so-strong outfit from other groups who have successfully married jazz and musically unrelated idioms to ancient instrumental traditions is that they do it with great enjoyment, taste, technical skill, rhythmic intensity and, well . . . panache. They were originally named the Breizh-Gasconha Moving Company, and led by Francis Mounier, and the idea was to shift the long-established Breton and Gascon traditions to landscapes new, and now there’s no going back. A wind-based, tuba bass-driven big band with brass, saxes, bagpipes, bombardes, clarinets, piccolos and accordion, they romp through their highly original evolving soundscapes, at times airy and delicate, but more often in a fat, compellingly up-on-your-feet groove that can make even La Bottine sound fluffy. Mixed in are reedy improvisations in Gallic and Gaelic, North African or Near Eastern tonalities, and a sense that the Lords of Misrule are lying in wait. This is essentially visceral music that, for all its subtle complexity, is meant to be felt, rather than thought about, tasted rather than watched. They sometimes have dancers in their show, and even if they don’t dance at Glasgow, the band shares a late night concert with San Francisco’s Stairwell Sisters, who definitely will.