Formed in 1991, Farmers Market is a Norwegian quintet that specializes in Balkan-jazz fusion. Led by multi-instrumentalist Stian Carstensen (accordion, guitar, banjo, kaval), the group has sporadically functioned over the last seventeen years, releasing just three albums (one live) before Surfin’ USSR.
The band has worked with a spate of guest musicians, including American composer/saxophonist Michael Brecker and clarinetist Filip Simeonov from Taraf de Haidouks.
Surfin’ USSR begins with a grimy surf riff that is met with fluttering horns, high-pitched guitar chords, and a feverish Balkan sound. A quick bridge merges the Balkan sound with tablas, and the guitar plays the famous 007 chords over the rejoined brass.
The album’s third track then breaks the established style. The string-filled tune is cinematic, and merges reverberated Hawaiian slide guitar solos with tablas. A touch of bluegrass appears in the following song after a funky wah pedal. Traditional world vocals are scattered about the album; low-register chants roll underneath heavy guitar work on the disc’s sixth song.
The stylistic mash is typical of Farmers Market. Its second album, Musikk Fra Hybridene, fused elements like bluegrass, metal, classical, and commercial music with jazz, rock, and Balkan tunes. Surfin’ USSR draws fewer parallels to Mr. Bungle, Naked City, or Estradasphere, but remains as prolific in synthesis and as talent infused as its peers.
– Scott Morrow