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Written in Folk Roots issue 181, 1998

Red Hand

Willow Music IK001 (1997)

I guess at first listen some Folk Roots readers might regard this album as pretty far from folk music. Ingrid Karklins is, though, a classic example of post-traditionalism, in which each musician has in effect a personal tradition built from all their influences. We just donít live in villages, largely unaware of any ways of making music other than those in our immediate geographical vicinity, any more. Some of us give in more or less to the pressure of one or other global mainstream; Ingrid Karklins doesnít.
      Her name first appeared in Folk Roots when cassette releases were still reviewed, then again with her first two CDs (on Green Linnet), and in an interview piece. Having parted company with the label, she resolved to make the whole project of her next recording as deeply personal as her songs, and indeed it is, dramatically so. Red Hand comes in a package hand-made by her, using fine papers and red braids, bearing a red imprint of her right hand. The natural impulse of the recipient is the childlike and fundamental one of matching hands, and unwrapping like a present the entirely red, unmarked CD.
      The main features of the sound are her voice, which as others have said has some similarity to Laurie Andersonís, and her piano (and occasional Latvian kokle and fiddle) with Steve Bernalís bass, Craig No.7ís guitars and the remarkable, innovative and powerful percussion of Thor, who was a shaping factor in her compelling first CD, A Darker Passion, and has returned for this one.
      Karklins makes absolutely no claim to performing Latvian traditional music, but her songs, minimal in lyrics, showing her compelling tension between self-exposure and extreme privacy, combine what is deeply personal to her with the oblique symbolism of the Latvian dainas (folksong verses tunnelling through the Latvian experience of many centuries) which are a strong influence. She draws on Malayan pantun, Scottish song, Alexander Pope, Nick Drake, a Dobu Island charm and Randy Newman, but thereís no complete exposition of any of them - theyíre threads in the weave.
      Remarkable and bold, and, like much great art, on the jagged edge between the mainstream and non-existence. Strangely liberating and encouraging.

© 1998 Andrew Cronshaw

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