Stian Carstensen - Backwards into the Backwoods
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Stian Carstensen
Backwards into the Backwoods (Winter and Winter)

The Norwegian musican and composer's 2004 release, his second under his own name for Winter and Winter recordings is an exciting and innovative work, in keeping with his long time experiments with Farmer's Market and other projects he has been a part of or spearheaded. He explores uniquely southern American music in a truly Norwegian, avant garde way. Don't expect recycled country or blues, though: this is all creative and original material with a sharp edge (and some of Carstensen's usual Balkan tinge).

Tracks (highlighted are MP3 samples):
  • 1. Dimitri's Polynesian vacation
  • 2. Death of a neutered choir boy
  • 3. See fair Lis (is her veneer real?)
  • 4. Backwards into the backwoods
  • 5. Zat was Zen..... Zis is now
  • 6. Improvisation Nş I
  • 7. Improvisation Nş II
  • 8. Improvisation Nş III (based on a traditional Bulgarian song)
  • 9. Improvisation Nş IV
  • 10. Improvisation Nş V
  • 11. Gyorgys appalachian vacation
  • 12. What's that horsehead doing on my pillow?
  • 13. (Look grandpa!) Buckwheat's on bogweed
  • 14. One legged cow's new age square dance
  • 15. Vlad Tepes' two-step (swing that bat...) (based on a Transylvanian traditional melody)
  • 16. Funeral march for a neutered choir boy
Stian Carstensen, accordion, midi accordion, banjo, guitar, fiddle, kaval, vocals
Arve Henriksen, trumpet, vocals
Ernst Reijseger, cello, vocals
Jarle Vespestad, drums, vocals
Haavard Wiik, piano, spinet, sound effects

Press from the record label:
Backwards into the Backwoods is Stian Carstensen's second album for Winter & Winter after Farmers Market. This album is an important step in Stian Carstensen's career because it is the first album under his sole direction. Farmers Market was the result of a cooperative group, each band member dedicated musical ideas to create the sound of that band. The wild range of rhythm and sounds of Backwards into the Backwoods are rooted in Stian Carstensen's musical life and experience.

Carstensen's great-grandfather was known in his village as one of the best accordion players and he started the tradition to play at weddings. Even today people are still talking about the great music of his great-grandfather. His grandfather and father continued this tradition, and it is no surprise that as a young boy Stian played with his father at waltzes and weddings. Every free minute he practiced the accordion—even in the backseat of his father's car before school.

In 1998 Carstensen watched the movie Deliverance for the first time. The soundtrack Dueling Banjos led him to buy a plane ticket to Kentucky. There he rented a car and drove around to hear bluegrass music. It was also where he learned to play the banjo. That trip infused bluegrass into his blood. The banjo that he experienced in Kentucky reminded him of a spinet used in baroque music. It's no wonder that both instruments play a major role in Backwards into the Backwoods.

Stian Carstensen has chosen extraordinary musicians to realize this album: cellist Ernst Reijseger, drummer Jarle Vespestad (who also played on Farmers Market), Stian's musical colleague for many years, Arve Henriksen, who is one of Norway's best known trumpeters, and pianist Haavard Wiik who studied with Stian at the Conservatory of Music in Trondheim.

Backwards into the Backwoods is a roguish piece of Stian Carstensen's unusual experience of life: pure joie de vivre!


About the artist:

Stian Carstensen - Backwards into the Backwoods
"When you get down south trying to find someone who could show you how to pick the banjo, you might just end up somewhere with some weird hillbilly pointing at you with his shotgun, commanding you to go backwards (with your hands in the air) into the backwoods! Backwoods is also a place where things are uncertain, a place one is not familiar with. With this album I feel that I am throwing myself backwards into that kind of place with a blindfold, musically speaking, because it is different from all my previous works. Then you have the phonetic aspect of the case; since I love playing with words I like the sound of it, it sounds psychedelic, and at the same time a bit rural, in a way that goes for the music too!" Stian Carstensen about »Backwards into the Backwoods«, his second album after »Farmers Market« for Winter & Winter. This album is an important step in Stian Carstensen's career because »Backwards into the Backwoods« is the first album under his sole direction. »Farmers Market« was the result of a cooperative group, each band member dedicated musical ideas to create the sound of that band. The wild range of rhythm and sounds of »Backwards into the Backwoods« are rooted in Stian Carstensen's musical life and experience. His great- grandfather was known in his village as one of the best accordion players and he started the tradition to play at weddings. Until today the people are still talking about the great music of his great-grandfather. His grandfather and also his father continued this tradition, and it is no surprise that Stian played as a young boy with his father traditional Norwegian dance tunes and waltzes at weddings, too. Every free minute he was practicing the accordion, even in the backseat of his father's car when he brought him to school. At the age of ten he discovered through his father jazz standards and a little later he started to play the guitar. For about four years he only played heavy metal guitar during weekdays, and traditional wedding tunes with the accordion in the weekends. It didn't take long and he played the guitar better than any other fellow in the village. In a music seminar he learned jazz harmony and some years later he had been accepted at the Conservatory of Music in Trondheim. But his interest in music was not onesided. Stian heard on radio works for barrel-organ written by György Ligeti and he bought every record he could get by Ligeti. Later he found out that Ligeti comes from Dicsöszentmárton (now Târnarveni) in Transylvania, Romania. Also Stian's family has their roots in Eastern Europe, so he feels besides his love for Ligeti's music a deep spiritual connection. His grandfather played sometimes Gypsy music, too. Stian's interest became serious in the beginning of the 90s when he heard real Bulgarian music for the first time and he reserved tickets to Bulgaria just two weeks after this first musical meeting. He knew nobody in the country but brought his tape recorder and accordion, and since then he has visited Bulgaria every year, made new friends and learned from the best local musicians. In 1998 he saw in a Norwegian cinema the thriller »Deliverance«, the sound track »Dueling Banjos« forced him to buy another flight ticket, this time to Kentucky. Here in the US he rented a car and drove around to hear hillbilly- and blue grass-music, and he learned to play the banjo and since that trip the hillbilly-syndrome got into his blood. The banjo which Stian experienced in Kentucky reminds him of the sound of a spinet used in baroque music, and so it's no wonder that both instruments are playing a major role in »Backwards into the Backwoods«. Stian Carstensen has chosen extraordinary musicians to realize this album: cellist Ernst Reijseger whom he knows and loves since their first meeting in Norway in 1994, drummer Jarle Vespestad who is also a member of »Farmers Market« and Stian's musical colleague since years, Arve Henriksen who is one of the most known and highly respected Norwegian trumpet players and pianist Haavard Wiik who studied as Stian at the Conservatory of Music in Trondheim; both are connected through a long friendship since that time. »Backwards into the Backwoods« is a roguish piece of Stian Carstensen's unusual experience of life: pure joie de vivre! - Stefan Winter

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