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Iain Ballamy and Stian Carstensen The Little Radio Review

Album. Released 2004.  

BBC Review

The album is quite unique in its warmth, positivity and audience-friendliness.

Hans Biørn Lian 2004

Ah, the pleasure of lush harmonies and strong melodies. The press release for this recording said that these were among the best musicians in Europe. They were wrong. They are among the best in the world.

Make no mistake. These guys are true virtuosos on their instruments. At times they plunge into Laurel and Hardy-like sequences with humour, impeccable timing and a particularly audience-friendly sense of structure in their songs. As a listener you get the sense that they are playing especially for you - they want this music to make you feel good and are not shy of employing every musical trick in the book (and several new ones too).

The Little Radio is a collection of mostly standards. Throughout the album you get a sense of stage and of cabaret - a Brechtian atmosphere permeates the whole album. With the unconventional setup of accordion and saxophone you might expect a naked, shrill sound. Actually you will rarely hear a warmer, fuller one.

The album is quite unique in its warmth, positivity and audience-friendliness. The virtuosity can at times leave the listener flabbergasted, but it is mixed with enough humour to successfully pull the listener into the music. Ballamy and Carstensen complement each other on a level that's rarely heard. Carstensen is a restless virtuoso, while Ballamy is calm and cool.

Their version of Hans Eisler's 'An Den Kleinen Radioapparat' will probably give you goose-bumps, maybe even watery eyes. Another standout is the short improvisatory tune 'Improv'. It's hard to believe that 'The Way You Look Tonight' is only performed by two musicians. Carstensen and Ballamy even occasionally toy with modernism (as on 'Improv'), but not once does the listener feel excluded.

Hearing them live leaves you in absolute awe. With their sheer virtuosity and sense of joy you feel like a kid about to step onto a twinkling, old-fashioned merry-go-round. Listening to this beautifully recorded CD is almost as good.

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