How's this for a concept? The female chorus from Finland's Värttinä (but less shrill) crossed with Sweden's Groupa, with a little Benny Goodman thrown in. If you can imagine this, you'll have some idea of what Norway's folk big band Chateau Neuf sounds like. The arrangements reflect a bewildering variety of influences; "Fjellmannjenta (The Mountain Girl)," for example, sounds like Pat Benatar. Maybe in Norway, blatant mixtures of hard rock and folk music sound novel and exotic; to American ears, it sounds like a cheapening, just saved from disaster by the presence of the women's chorus. Sometimes, though, the mix of cultures is thrilling. "CP-slåtten/Vetlguten (Tune for CP/Lullaby for Vetle)" uses voice, clarinet, Indian percussion and synthesizer washes to create a Sephardic-sounding twilight fantasy. "Skalle-Per," named for a hermit in a novel, uses accordion, clarinet, saxes and rollicking drum kit to create a muscular dance rhythm, somewhat reminiscent of Tuatara. Other numbers are a mixed bag: generally, the farther the group stays from overt rock and jazz, the better off they are. Chateau Neuf is good at mixing cultures, even pretty good at the idea of Scandinavian big band with modern percussion. They just need to avoid sounding like everyone and everything else that's heard all over the planet.
AllMusic Review by Kurt Keefner