Oliver Schroer A Million Stars

Oliver Schroer is as unpredictable as tropical weather systems, so it comes as little surprise that the renowned composer/fiddler eases into his new album with an a cappella choral round instead of something you'd expect of, say, a song with a fiddle in it. Schroer's track record is next to phenomenal, as he continually pushes the image and usage of the violin forward, whether by releasing excellent albums of solo fiddle experimentation, by performing jaw-numbing jazz workouts, collaborating with all manner of world musicians or delighting in committing the most unlikely sounds to MiniDisc and then selling them. A Million Stars brings together recordings and songs Schroer has catalogued over almost two decades, sometimes with guest accompaniment and other times with Schroer laying down multiple violin tracks, strumming a lap steel, singing a vocal line or ringing a bell. The title is an apt metaphor for the myriad melodies threading Schroer's work and it is the simplest of melodies and fragments that often inspire him to compose (often instantaneously) the most beautiful songs. "The Love March," for instance, builds from a very basic whistled tune. "The One I Remember" began as a field recording on a MiniDisc in a Toronto subway station and the melody turns up accompanied by the found sound of a rusty hinge squeaking on a pontoon in a Genoa harbour. A Million Stars won't be everyone's cake of rosin, but if you are of the mind that Cape Breton should be severed from Canada and all its fiddle players swept out to sea, you should really get into Oliver Schroer. He's the Anti-Christ of the cat gut and A Million Stars is a pretty convincing gospel. It's not as groundbreaking as the head-spinning double solo album, 02, but ranks close to his last effort, Restless Urban Primitive, in scope and tone. (Big Dog Music)