PopMatters is moving to WordPress. We will publish a few essays daily while we develop the new site. We hope the beta will be up sometime late next week.

Motion Trio: Pictures From the Street

Matt Cibula

Accordions are the new guitars. It's true and you know it... and these three amazing accordion players from Poland prove it.

Motion Trio

Pictures from the Street

Label: Asphalt Tango
US Release Date: 2005-01-11
UK Release Date: Available as import

Accordions are the new guitars. It's true and you know it. Everyone used to be all "oh listen to all the wonderful sounds that can be coaxed out of this six-string monster," but guitars are over now, just a means to an end, something to pound on or strum to make oneself look cool, a cute throwback to Chuck Berry and Joan Jett.

["Train to Heaven": scary wobbly railroad noises with crazy-fast techno-synthy squelch. "Café Paris": Gallic 5/4 time, Romany mystique with a dark undercurrent. "Balkan Dance": honking counterpoint, ping and pong and whirling skirts, a smile at midnight.]

But accordions! Accordions are full-on orchestras! Sure, we all think they're like Lawrence Welk-time, oh-no-grandpa's-drunk-again weapons against taste and discretion -- but we're wrong and we should apologize. Have you heard Celso Piña, Mexico's "Rebel of the Accordion", make it go boom and skank? Have you heard Daniel Höle, from the Czech band Ahmed Má Hlad, playing speedcore klezmer ska? Have you ever seen Buckwheat Zydeco live, where Stanley Burrell plays "Hey Joe" at top volume and makes the little girls and boys cry with happiness and pain? Have you people never heard of Astor Piazzolla? ARE YOU EVEN ALIVE????

["Little Story": what the match girl heard, in the version where she lives, and grows up sexy. "Tango": way too fast to dance, showing off but with a wink, rock and roll won't die. "It's OK": fanfare for workers, mad string section saws away, tense without tension.]

This album proves my point for me, without me having to hyperventilate. Motion Trio is made up of three amazing accordion players from Poland, all of whom have won prizes at national and international competitions. (Yes, they have competitions in Europe. And yes, I would happily attend them all, loaded on cheap beer and fatty food, and be in heaven.) They have studied at the university level, and are therefore technical experts... but they have also learned their craft playing as street performers, dodging skinheads and horses and opera snobs. So they have street cred too.

["Scotsman": bagpipe funeral, sad at first turning to slow acceptance, then sun. "Pageant": monster walking bass, melancholy horseback pomp; then it gets funky. "Asfalt Tango": hey you 'compsers', we can do minimalist WAY smoother than you! "Aide Jano": eight minutes of bliss, slowly burning like a fire set in a trashcan.]

Which is why Pictures From the Street hits so hard. These are classically-informed, regular-person-friendly compositions for three accordions. Group leader Janusz Wojtarowicz treats the instrument like an "acoustic sampler" that can replicate any instrument, and really any sound. And these aren't just any instruments, either; they were made for the group by the top manufacturer in the world, at a cost of 18,000 euros each, paid for by the Polish Ministry of Culture. (Suddenly, Euro-socialism sounds a whole lot better, doesn't it?) So when he and Pawel Baranek and Marcin Galazyn get together, honking and bleating and blending and singing and interweaving and soloing and creating weird wild new beauty with their fancy orchestral toys, it's kind of like they're discovering a whole new world. Stay in your shell, if you like -- I'm two-stepping all the way into the future.


Please Donate to Help Save PopMatters

PopMatters have been informed by our current technology and hosting provider that we have less than a month, until November 6, to move PopMatters off their service or we will be shut down. We are moving to WordPress and a new host, but we really need your help to save the site.





Bishakh Som's 'Spellbound' Is an Innovative Take on the Graphic Memoir

Bishakh's Som's graphic memoir, Spellbound, serves as a reminder that trans memoirs need not hinge on transition narratives, or at least not on the ones we are used to seeing.


Gamblers' Michael McManus Discusses Religion, Addiction, and the Importance of Writing Open-Ended Songs

Seductively approachable, Gamblers' sunny sound masks the tragedy and despair that populate the band's debut album.


Peter Guralnick's 'Looking to Get Lost' Is an Ode to the Pleasures of Writing About Music

Peter Guralnick's homage to writing about music, 'Looking to Get Lost', shows how good music writing gets the music into the readers' head.


In Praise of the Artifice in George Cukor's 'Sylvia Scarlett'

George Cukor's gender-bending Sylvia Scarlett proposes a heroine who learns nothing from her cross-gendered ordeal.


The Cure: Ranking the Albums From 13 to 1

Just about every Cure album is worth picking up, and even those ranked lowest boast worthwhile moments. Here are their albums, spanning 29 years, presented from worst to best.


The 20 Best Episodes of 'Star Trek: The Original Series'

This is a timeless list of 20 thrilling Star Trek episodes that delight, excite, and entertain, all the while exploring the deepest aspects of the human condition and questioning our place in the universe.


The 20 Best Tom Petty Songs

With today's release of Tom Petty's Wildflowers & All the Rest (Deluxe Edition), we're revisiting Petty's 20 best songs.

Joshua M. Miller

The 11 Greatest Hits From "Greatest Hits" Compilations

It's one of the strangest pop microcosms in history: singles released exclusively from Greatest Hits compilations. We rounded 'em up and ranked 'em to find out what is truly the greatest Greatest Hit of all.


When Punk Got the Funk

As punks were looking for some potential pathways out of the cul-de-sacs of their limited soundscapes, they saw in funk a way to expand the punk palette without sacrificing either their ethos or idea(l)s.


20 Hits of the '80s You Might Not Have Known Are Covers

There were many hit cover versions in the '80s, some of well-known originals, and some that fans may be surprised are covers.


The Reign of Kindo Discuss Why We're Truly "Better Off Together"

The Reign of Kindo's Joseph Secchiaroli delves deep into their latest single and future plans, as well as how COVID-19 has affected not only the band but America as a whole.


Tommy Siegel's Comic 'I Hope This Helps' Pokes at Social Media Addiction

Jukebox the Ghost's Tommy Siegel discusses his "500 Comics in 500 Days" project, which is now a new book, I Hope This Helps.


Kimm Rogers' "Lie" Is an Unapologetically Political Tune (premiere)

San Diego's Kimm Rogers taps into frustration with truth-masking on "Lie". "What I found most frustrating was that no one would utter the word 'lie'."


50 Years Ago B.B. King's 'Indianola Mississippi Seeds' Retooled R&B

B.B. King's passion for bringing the blues to a wider audience is in full flower on the landmark album, Indianola Mississippi Seeds.


Filmmaker Marlon Riggs Knew That Silence = Death

In turning the camera on himself, even in his most vulnerable moments as a sick and dying man, filmmaker and activist Marlon Riggs demonstrated the futility of divorcing the personal from the political. These films are available now on OVID TV.


The Human Animal in Natural Labitat: A Brief Study of the Outcast

The secluded island trope in films such as Cast Away and television shows such as Lost gives culture a chance to examine and explain the human animal in pristine, lab like, habitat conditions. Here is what we discover about Homo sapiens.


Bad Wires Release a Monster of a Debut with 'Politics of Attraction'

Power trio Bad Wires' debut Politics of Attraction is a mix of punk attitude, 1990s New York City noise, and more than a dollop of metal.


'Waiting Out the Storm' with Jeremy Ivey

On Waiting Out the Storm, Jeremy Ivey apologizes for present society's destruction of the environment and wonders if racism still exists in the future and whether people still get high and have mental health issues.

Collapse Expand Reviews

Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.