Review | Songlines

Pipers

Rating: ★★★★

View album and artist details

Album and Artist Details

Artist/band:

Clarinet Factory

Label:

Supraphon

November/2020

I’m a big fan of the clarinet. Of all the wind instruments it has the widest and most varied range of registers. But what about a whole band of clarinets? Clarinet Factory are a Czech quartet of clarinets and bass clarinet that have been active for 25 years and are rather brilliant in creating dark and slightly threatening soundscapes. The music they make is atmospheric, moody and ultimately exhilarating. I’ve seen them Live on a couple of occasions and come away impressed.

Pipers is their eighth album and has jumped to the higher regions of World Music Charts Europe, not because their music is particularly Czech or worldy, but just because it is intriguing and distinctive. Half of its ten tracks have lyrics, generally in Czech but there are also songs in English and Spanish, but it’s the instrumental textures that define them – ‘Dudál’ is perhaps the most powerful and memorable. ‘NeŽ Zavoláš’ is the most poetic of the songs, seemingly set in some forest world with enigmatic words about a lost bird with intertwining melodies and woodland sounds. It evokes an enchanted place. ‘Naftalíh’ has a more urgent message about tankers and oil pollution – a disaster we’ve just seen again in Mauritius with its dolphin casualties. The word oil (naftalíh) is repeated alongside a rising three-note motif and the bass clarinet grunting away like some deep, bubbling oil well.

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