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Radio Banana

by Aki Peltonen
ReR Megacorp, Thornton Heath, Surrey, UK, nd
Audio CD, 11.50
Distributor’s website: www.rermegacorp.com.

Reviewed by Stefaan Van Ryssen
Hogeschool Gent


The accordion has always been a difficult instrument to use in experimental music. There may be two reasons for that. First, it used to be a ‘popular’ instrument, more at home in the streets and cafés of villages and cities than on the stage of concert halls. Secondly, the sound has a certain nasal flatness and is difficult to manipulate; a ‘prepared’ accordion or an accordion played with flatterzunge effects is difficult to imagine. Apart from a few real virtuosos — the name of Pauline Oliveras springs to mind — hardly any avant-garde musicians have used the instrument, and even now that most prejudice against it is probably politically incorrect, it still isn’t widely used in pop, rock, classical, contemporary, electropop, jazz or any other genre apart from maybe folk music. But the accordion is back. Coming in from Finland, even.

It seems that Aki Peltonen wanted to make sure that there is at least one rock/folk/free jazz record that features an accordion, an MW-radio, an orchestra of winds and percussion and a moog synthesizer. In five tracks, he waltzes through the basics of several genres without ever losing the essential character of the accordion and the melodic nature of the music as such from sight. The surprising thing about this record is the ease and casualness of the crossings and the combinations. Whether the accordion is combined with drums only or with the full ensemble and an MW-radio, there is a certain unavoidable logic to the whole. A logic that comes from the undemolishable steadiness of Peltonen’s playing and the unpredictable but always tasteful reactions or interactions of the accompanying musicians. Everyone knows his place. Every instrument sticks to its unique and well-defined role. Whether it is in the lengthy ‘Finnish walz’ in the freejazzy last untitled track, or in the variations on a simple theme (track 3), there is a tangible sincerity in the way the accordion stands out or hides. It is, simply and solely, itself. No effects, no transformations, no excuses, only accordion. The moog, the radio and the wind section don’t kneel before it; they simply let it be itself.

Aki Peltonen has, as far as we know, not recorded any previous material. He has been working as a producer in his own company in Pori, Finland.



Updated 1st July 2006

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