The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden: Live at VPRO Radio

With a distinctive instrumental configuration of bouzouki, violin, cello, drums, and guitar, The One Ensemble of Daniel Padden mines a similar kind of 'nuevo folk' territory to A Silver Mt. Zion and A Hawk and a Hacksaw. Having originated the One Ensemble as a moonlighting project from his Volcano The Bear day job, multi-instrumentalist Padden produced two albums alone before assembling a touring group for European concerts and festivals, and it's this outfit that was captured live in the studio for the radio session.

The 45-minute album's opening attack clearly intimates that The One Ensemble is a band best heard live. After an opening flourish of string scrapes, “Clown Flinging” settles into a dirge before the folk dance “Mustard Mustard” finds the quintet alternating between reflective and thunderous passages. Aside from their shared predilection for elastically handled folk forms, there's one other thing that connects the One Ensemble's sound to A Silver Mt. Zion's: Padden's vocalizing, which—thankfully, on “Baltic Antiquarian” only—recalls too vividly Efrem's strangulated delivery. A more controlled approach in the epic waltz “Sleep Norway Sleep” renders Padden's singing much more palatable; his snarling yodel in “Weevils” even vaguely calls to mind David Byrne during Talking Heads' prime. The One Ensemble's sound may reference gypsy, klezmer, and Greek folk traditions but Padden and co. boost it with a fearless intensity and improv sensibility. Like Windy & Carl's Dedications to Flea, Brainwashed's inaugurating Handmade Series release, Padden's disc is available in a limited run of 500 letterpressed copies and will in all likelihood vanish quickly.

January 2006