There are ensembles playing so well that one can’t possibly criticize them. Able to tackle whatever complex score is available, spicing it with improvised sketches that appear rehearsed, enriched by tentative sense of humour and quotes from easier materials (pop, folk, you name it). Add a pinch of elegiac nostalgia every once in a while, dress the whole with accents ranging from East-European dance tunes, Piazzolla and his derivates, some sort of exotic-yet-serious classicism, and there’s nothing that can be pronounced against the offer. Fake Folk is exactly the type of release I’m talking about, an album that presents plenty of tightly executed arrangements over the course of 77 minutes; perhaps a tad long for my taste, despite the incontestable technical brilliance. A project started in 1989, Pago Libre’s original nucleus is exclusively represented in this instance by pianist John Wolf Brennan, whereas the remaining three elements – horn player Arkady Shilkloper, violinist Tscho Theissing and cellist Georg Breinschmid – joined the ranks in subsequent times. The astonishing dexterity of the performers, who apparently wouldn’t miss a beat even if threatened at gunpoint, steers clear off less than proper behaviours. Ingenious mayhem or inconclusive disorder are nowhere to be found; the quartet is just perfect as it is. Maybe too perfect. Certainly spectacular if seen live, but – at the end of the day – a twenty-minute cut and a touch of perilous adventurousness beyond the all-smiles attitude and the acoustic juggling would not have been such an error. It’s still a superb-sounding effort, therefore do not attribute excessive weight to this grumpy writer’s finicky blathering.