Surpluz: Dat Ik Zingen Moet!

March 8, 2017

Canto Ergo Sum

Listening Post 89. In the modern world, a boundary separates stage from audience. But the Belgian band Surpluz performs charming traditional songs with bagpipe, hurdy-gurdy, dulcimer, accordion, guitar and clarinet, transporting listeners to a time when the line between entertainer and spectator was thin, when music was a larger part of everyone’s life, when farmers, soldiers, traders, weavers, smiths and tavern patrons told stories, expressed joy and sorrow—all in melody. Surpluz stepped into the Flemish folk landscape as a largely instrumental ensemble, but on their third album the band mates are in full voice, with rousing harmonies and enchanting solos, more than justifying the Dutch title Dat Ik Zingen Moet! (I Have to Sing!). In Wij boeren en boerinnen (We Farmers and Peasants), they highlight pre-industrial pursuits—plowing, spinning, selling wooden clogs, courting and drinking beer: “No walls and no chimneys/Our houses so humble/Tormented by mice/But we sing, never grumble” (video 1). For country fellows, Amsterdam is the symbol of heaven, but taking the finer things with you can backfire, as one young man learns when the pretty city girl he took home tries to milk a cow (video 2). There’s a lot of history in Minnezucht (Love’s Lament), a fragment of a song—apparently unfinished—from a Flemish foothold in France: the sad story concerns a knight who rode to Calais to see his love but didn’t find her (video 3). De Koopmanszoon (The Merchant’s Son) is a dark tale of a young man who turns to crime after being cast out by his parents (video 4). Concert audiences tend to be respectfully quiet these days, but Surpluz does a superb job breaching boundaries of space and time. (Appel Rekords)







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