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Based in Fürstenfeldbruck, Germany, Galileo Music Communication is one of Europe's leading labels for folk, jazz and world music. I have a selection of their recent releases here.

Hauptbahnhof is the latest album from Finnish harmonica quartet SVÄNG, which comprises a mixture of re-recorded audience favourites and new material. Sväng's music is performed entirely on harmonicas of various kinds, and puts a new, unique spin on traditional (and not so traditional) musics from around the world. Romanian, Bulgarian, Russian, Finnish and US folk tunes appear alongside such surprises as a 1960s Japanese hit and the Harry Potter theme! Humaljärvi is a new composition drawing from Finnish folk tradition. The piece is stately and melancholic, and demonstrates the band's astonishing knack of giving their music an almost orchestral feel despite being played only on four harmonicas. Svängarska Kopanitsa is a lively folk dance tune in Bulgarian style. Koi No Vacance is a 1960s Japanese song written by Yasushi Miyagava; I don't know the original but in the hands of Sväng it takes on a jazz character. Kua Kua Kome Kiki sounds to these ears like a Tudor-era folk tune transported into a Wild West movie soundtrack. Hedwig's Theme is of course the Harry Potter film music, written by John Williams. The eerie, bewitching mood of the original is carried over perfectly in Sväng's version; the piece retains the orchestral feel of the original despite its minimal instrumentation, and brings in an additional folk dimension. Svängtime Rag is a cheerful ragtime piece, really uplifting. A great album which acts as an ideal introduction to this innovative folk outfit.

Also from Finland is the ESPOO BIG BAND, whose new album Lauma is a collaboration with HUSBAND. The 23-piece line-up includes three current and former members of Leningrad Cowboys. (I'm Your Husband) Überture is semi-abstract jazz paired with hard-hitting rock with proggy twists and turns. Sir Dalud is an energetic rollercoaster of a piece, bringing together big band jazz, bebop, smooth piano jazz, funk-rock, prog, and wild heavy rock. Lauma brings plaintive and atmospheric folk into the mix alongside mellow jazz and intricate rock. St John begins with an ethereal mood, with tinkling bells and theremin-like sounds combined with slow and dreamlike jazz, before shifting gears for a more uptempo jazz approach. Bebyy is an energetic and enjoyably raucous jazz-rock number with occasional excursions into funk and prog. The album is rooted in jazz yet also transcends this background with its inventive, eclectic fusion approach.

ANDREA PANCUR's album Alpen Klezmer - Zum Meer is a unique combination of klezmer and Bavarian folk. Die Humpn Mit Wein is based on a poem by Hirsh Bloshtein, set to a folk melody and an amazing arrangement with vocal harmonies, yodelling, and powerful rhythmic percussion. The lyrics celebrate the good things in life: friendship, nature, and love. Is Do Wos? sets Dadaist lyrics to an inventive mix of oompah-pah trombone and bell-like dulcimer. Aufm Markt in Obagiasing contrasts playful lyrics with a melancholic melody, its innovative arrangement including toy piano and jazz-tinged clarinet and double bass. Isar brings the klezmer to the forefront of the music, while the lyrics are rooted in German natural scenery. A Treyfener Nign transforms a yodel collected by an anti-Semitic politician and ethnomusicologist into a celebration of love over hatred and bigotry. The arrangement is simply beautiful, with choral-style vocal harmonies accompanied by gentle harp. An inventive album with a commendable message of love combating hate.

Cape Verdean artist CARMEN SOUZA has collaborated with THEO PASCAL for the album Creology, which brings together influences from Cape Verdean music, jazz and pop. Ligria blends traditional Cape Verdean musical motifs with Western electric pop instruments. Pretty Eyes is in the vocal jazz/torch song tradition. Xinxiroti is a minimal acoustic song blending elements of jazz and folk-tinged singer-songwriter music. Escuta Moçambique is a lively mix of folk-pop, jazz and African musical traditions, with an enjoyably angular approach. The album closes with title track Creology, which sets vocal jazz to intricate tribal-style drumming.

Greek guitarist NIKOS TSIACHRIS presents his first solo flamenco album Alcance. Nikos has a complex, intricate playing style which is rooted in flamenco tradition whilst incorporating a new creative touch. Guest musicians add extra texture to the album, such as the heavily rhythmic and similarly intricate percussion and handclaps, the mournful trumpet in Lobna, the jazz undertones of Baracoa, and the unexpected yet highly effective use of electric guitar in the title track, which adds an almost prog-folk feel to the piece.

Galileo also has an associated label, T3 Records; I get the impression this label deals more with expressions of world music that are perhaps more strictly contemporary and more inspired by pop-cultural or subcultural musical forms. DOCTOR KRAPULA are a band from Colombia whose album Animal is an uncompromising and powerful, yet strongly melodic, synthesis of styles. The title track is heavy-hitting rap-metal. Democracy blends ska, rap and rock with squelchy sci-fi synth sounds, its bouncy rhythm and catchy tune juxtaposed with angry political lyrics. El Soñador is punked-up Latin American folk with a surfy twang. Candela is fizzing upbeat electro-pop with an aggressive rock undercurrent. Hey Ya Aho sets a traditional Native American chant to a high octane mix of rock, punk and intense vintage synth whirrs and bleeps. With such an eclectic set of genres making up Doctor Krapula's sound, the album is more diverse than some various artists compilations, yet the band have their own distinctive style at the core, making Animal hold together as a cohesive album.

Find out more at www.galileo-mc.de


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