Imagine you’re a Danish quartet with one album under your belt. You’re invited to play only your second-ever gig, a prestigious event in Warsaw, Poland. What do you do? Perform pieces that people might know, or write something entirely new that will never be repeated after that night?
If you’re Penny Pascal, you opt for the latter, with a pair of lengthy pieces. The first, “Danish Tunes” is far more than a perfunctory pastiche of Danish dance styles and familiar melodies. Instead, it takes all that as its inspiration, then aims high with original tunes that to flow with the head-raised-feet-moving lightness that characterizes Danish music (itself originally inspired by much 18th century English dances). At almost half an hour, it’s an epic work, but if anything, it still feels too short.
They do it so well that the tunes seem as if you’ve known them for years, although you haven’t, and with traditional music in their DNA, they can sound utterly authentic. With two violins, cittern and doubles bass, the quartet create an orchestra with their elaborate but very natural arrangements. No wonder that someone shouts “Bravo!” at the end of the piece, which was recorded on a hand-held recorder at the afternoon rehearsal (with stunning clarity).
“Without Borders” nods toward a few different styles as well as classical music. Here the writing shows remarkable skill.
Two albums in, they have established themselves as lovely anarchists of modern Danish folk music, creating something that acknowledges its debt to the past, and then pushes forward in a very personal and melodic way.
Further reading and listening:
Penny Pascal - Grand Voyager
Tranquebar - Ø
Tone of Voice Orchestra