Dipper Malkin – Tricks of the Trade

Album Review | Self Release | Review by Kev Boyd | Stars: 4/5

Dipper Malkin are the duo of John Dipper and Dave Malkin. Dipper could most recently be found playing fiddle with the Methera string quartet and is a veteran of the English Acoustic Collective alongside Chris Wood and Rob Harbron while Malkin was a founder member of electro-trad ensemble Tandem. With this pedigree it’s perhaps unsurprising they are collectively exploring imaginative and challenging ways of interpreting largely traditional repertoire. Dipper plays the rarely-heard (in folk music circles, at last) baroque instrument viola d’amore which offers the opportunity for him to experiment with unique tunings and explore the rich and varied timbre of the instrument that comes to define the sonic mood of several tracks on Tricks of the Trade. Malkin’s guitar is equally prominent on a number of traditional and original pieces. In fact, the musicianship throughout this album is impeccable and there’s a clean, unfussy sharpness to the production that emphasises the exquisite execution. There could perhaps have been a better balance of songs to tunes as on the best of the three songs, “All Things are Quite Silent” there’s a quiet resignation to Malkin’s vocal delivery that perfectly suits the material. It might have been interesting to hear the duo bring a similar sense of imagination to the rich English song tradition as they do to the traditional tune canon. That being said, it’s hard to fault an album of such high standards in both arrangements and performance. Dipper Malkin set out to make an album equal in artistic value to contemporary classical music and in accomplishment to improvised jazz and I guess the experts in those genres would need to comment on how successful they might have been. What I can say is they have achieved is an album of largely traditional English instrumental repertoire played on acoustic instruments to an incredibly high standard. There are no gimmicks, relatively few noticeable overdubs and just a couple of brief and tasteful cameos by guest musicians. There is, however, a tonne of skill and ingenuity in what turns out to be an album of quiet beauty.