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The Alluring Pop Music of Robert Wegmann

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Robert Wegmann's music is a curious fusion of XTC, King Crimson, and Bill Nelson. This unconventional mixture of styles may raise some dubious eyebrows, but the music swiftly brings proof to this strange comparison, blending the frivolous frenzy of XTC with the serious fury of King Crimson, tempering it all with the slippery humor of Bill Nelson. The result is unexpected and satisfying. His enthusiastic pop tunes are affirming and thoroughly engaging.

Also featured are two releases of accordion duets by Nina & Lena.

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ROBERT WEGMANN: Down to the Sea in Ships (CD on Fumiko Records)

This CD from 1989 features 48 minutes of bright pop music.

Entertainingly uptempo, this music utilizes a traditional set of instruments: guitar, bass, drums, keyboards, and vocals, with synthesizer, flute and harmonica thrown in.

The guitar is pop-rock style, fast-strumming delivering winding chords that spiral throughout the mix with wild abandon. The percussion is steady and forceful, belting out guiding rhythms that do not overpower the rest of the music. The bass rumbles softly, lending almost subliminal support. The vocals are very reminiscent of Andy Partridge from XTC, crooning tales of everyday life with backing vocal harmonies spinning into XTC's high-end range.

The songs are short and compact, pop ditties that chug along with cheery effect. The main topic is relationships, lensed through daily endeavors. The tone is positive--none of that lamenting over lost opportunities here.

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ROBERT WEGMANN: The Wild Party (CD on Fumiko Records)

This CD from 1993 features 47 minutes of energetic pop tunes.

Take guitar, bass, keyboards, drums and vocals and filter them through Wegmann's enticing cleverness, and you get catchy tuneage with an inclination toward modern new wave music.

The guitars wail and bop with carefree enchantment, twisting strings with enjoyable results. The bass resounds with a rumbling pep, releasing a funky undercurrent into the mix. The drums twinkle and pound, delineating powerful tempos that keep the feet active. The keyboards are quite incidental this time, appearing on only two of the eighteen songs. The vocals are more rapid here, belting out lyrical observations that revolve around the joy of romance with life and emotional attachments.

This time, the overall effect is one of a guitar pop band. Riffs dominate, cavorting with nimble resonance and sparkling chords. The interplay between guitars and vocals produce a pleasant cerebral dose of fun-time music. No quarter is given, and the dedication to the party spirit is infectious like a benevolent virus.

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ROBERT WEGMANN: Red Hair (CD EP on Fumiko Records)

This CD EP from 1997 features 24 minutes of delightful pop.

With this release, Wegmann expands his instrumentation with the Chapman stick, injecting a cerebral edge to his pop sensibilities that harkens comparisons to King Crimson coloring is XTC-rich style. The result is daring and impressive.

The tunes are headier this time, displaying more intent toward experimentation. Not that the music isn't still pop-rich, but here the instruments conspire to achieve complex structure. There's a distinct seriousness betrayed by the intensely growling guitar and the thundering bass and the momentous and impressive percussion. Keyboards twinkle with crystalline flavor. There's even some quasi-horns showing, along with interdimensionally vibratory accordion by Wegmann's wife.

The vocals remain light-hearted and rich, attributing a humanity to the dense mass of cerebral instrumentation.

This CD EP is a significant maturing by this entertaining talent, boosting Wegmann to a level that fuses party music with innovative musicianship. A dazzling and noteworthy accomplishment that should belong in every audiophile's collection.

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NINA & LENA: Vitebsk, Minsk, & Moscow (CD on Fumiko Records)

This CD from 1997 features 50 minutes of accordion duets by a pair of Russian nationals, one of whom happens to Wegmann's wife.

In striking contrast to Wegmann's light-hearted pop music, the range of styles displayed by these girls include traditional, classical and folk, including some original compositions. Nina & Lena are three time Laureates in international competition, and have toured globally with notable success.

This music alternates between moodily dense and good-time celebratory. Often the instruments vibrate with such power that they echo the tones of monstrous church organs, evoking grand vistas of roiling clouds lit by glorious sunsets.

Perhaps not for everyone, these tunes document a deep heritage and culture that is far more than the standard recital fare.

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NINA & LENA: Just for Fun (CD on Fumiko Records)

This CD from 2002 delivers 35 minutes of accordion music.

Here, the girls are joined by a backing band (bass by Wegmann, and guitar and drums) which lends a fuller sound to their accordion duets. This time, the music is lighter, adding a more contemporary sound to their classical and folk renditions, expanding the repertoire to polka and exotic jazz.

Uptempo and quite passionate, this music breaks the mold of conventional accordion music, introducing a frolicsome verve to what is often dismissed as generally a polka genre. The melodies spill forth with a nimble-fingered enthusiasm that quite infectious, evoking far more than traditional Slavic tuneage.

Worthwhile if the listener is searching for more than stiff-lipped classical fare.

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