Thursday, April 21, 2011

CD Review: Maria Volonte's 'Portrait'


Argentina's Maria Volonte is a talented singer and guitarist with a career spanning fifteen to twenty years. About a half-dozen albums under her belt, Maria brings us a selection of some of those songs on Portrait. Sixteen songs highlight Maria's career as a rootsy, folk-centered musician with an earthy charisma not usually observed in other South American musicians. Nearly one-hour of music includes the lighter sounds of South America without the more technical wizardry of more contemporary musicians. Despite a lack of electronica or dance music, Maria shines bright as a folk singer with rhythms as hot as her voice. Fans of jazz, Latin, Argentinian, and folk music will love it. A 'portrait' is only a snapshot in time, but Maria defies time. Moreover, a detailed liner booklet includes a biography, song information, and other notes in English, German, and French translations. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Malika Zarra's 'Berber Taxi'

Berber Taxi

Malika is a Berber/Amazigh singer from Morocco. Based on local rhythms and influences, Malika incorporates several languages into the mix as well, including English, Arabic, Moroccan Arabic, French, and Berber. The music is not Gnawa, but it does transport one into a place of peace and tranquility. Musically, Malika is a more folked-out musician that is not as rock-oriented as fellow Berber countrywomen, Hindi Zahra or Iness Mezel. In fact, some of the tunes are quite laid-back, including the jazzy 'Houaria' and 'Mossameeha.' If you can picture Berber jazz, then this might be it. Some of the rhythms take on a Caribbean or Afro-Latin feel. This is especially evidenced on 'Amnesia.' It is refreshing to hear other voices from the deserts of North Africa. If you would like to take a brief respite from groovy blues guitar music, then relax and transport your way via Berber Taxi into the heart of Moroccan charm. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Karsh Kale's 'Cinema'


The Indian-American musical influences collide on Karsh Kale's latest addition to the musical world unfold on Cinema. From the opener 'Island,' it doesn't take long for the Air or Tangerine Dream comparisons to come into view. The electronica, dub-step, trance, and dance-type musical concoctions are trademark compositions for Karsh. A host of guest vocalists lend their talents to the mix, including Denmark's Anne Rani, Vidhi Sharma, Shahid Siddiqui, Vishal Vaid, Papon, and Monica Dogra. The serene beginning to 'Cinema' bleeds into a cascade of rock riffs, electronic effects, and Indian vocals by Vidhi Sharma. The piano opens 'Avalanche' with Zero 7-like male vocals matching a downtempo guitar rhythm and light percussion. 'Turnpike' is more of a dance beat anthem with an electronic undertone and New Age progression. 'Supernova' is a dubbed-out, retro tune with all the dance rhythms one can handle. The pulsating beats and electronic accompaniment with flute and rock influences mark the sign of good song only Karsh would produce. The mix of lush rhythms, soaring vocals, dance beats, and Indian sensibilities signify an excellent achievement with Cinema. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Les Yeux Noirs Releases 'Tiganeasca'


The prevalence of Gypsy music throughout Europe and other regions has caught the attention of world music listeners everywhere. Les Yeux Noirs, or "Black Eyes," release their latest album, Tiganeasca, of Romanian, Gypsy, Yiddish, and Klezmer musings. The album title is Romanian for 'Gypsy.' The fast guitars, percussion, strings, and vocals stir up a flurry of activity into a musical melee well-balanced and executed. The sometimes jazzy or folk-riddled instrumental repertoire is not for the faint of heart. In fact, the musical energy of 'Sirba Dili' is so envigorating it seems to jump off the CD and right into your soul. Fans of folk, Russian, European, Gypsy, Klezmer, Yiddish, or instrumental music will find Tiganeasca most appealing. Get your Gypsy on with Les Yeux Noirs! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Guinea's Macire Sylla Releases 'Talitha'


The Afropop beats of Guinean singer, Macire Sylla, are a follow-up to her 2005 release, Massa. The multi-instrumental repertoire includes a host of African instruments, including the kora, balafon, drums, flutes, and more typical piano, bass, guitar, rhodes, trumpet, and congas. The effervescent 'Aidara' shares the life-affirming qualities of anything by Rokia Traore, Oumou Sangare, or Angelique Kidjo. The bubbling percussion, sweet melodies, and iconic voice make Talitha a must-have among Guinean, African, and world music recordings. The cheery 'Tiama,' 'Artiste,' and 'Cetareia' are some of the best songs to come out of Africa. Talitha seems to cram alot of musical intelligence into one place without sacrificing quality. Fans of Macire Sylla will value Talitha in high-regard, while others may be introduced to her with this recording. At any rate, Talitha is a recording with an Afropop beat that is here to stay. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Maria Volonte's '9 Vidas'

9 Vidas

Argentina's Maria Volonte is a fresh face in the musical world of South America. Though, performing music for years, Maria tops herself with 9 Vidas. The title, Spanish-language track is a pleasant tune. It precedes an English-lyric tune, 'SF Tango'. 'Boulevard Of Broken Dreams' is a languid, jazzy, and bluesy tune with all the charisma of Ceu or Bebel Gilberto. Maria's voice on 'Beso Azul' awakens even the heaviest sleepers. The soulful vocals, lively percussion, harmonica, and guitar, provides a catchy set of melodies. The harmonica playing is also indicative of the more common (and local) accordion instrument. A range of jazz, folk, blues, Latin, and classy vocals do not disappoint. The sparkling keyboards on 'Gracias A La Vida' and the folksy beat to 'En El Bar' are a testament to the creative side of the spectrum. However, all of the songs have strengths with minimal disparities from the Argentinian home-base of Maria Volonte. If I had nine lives, I would listen to this one in each life. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Amjad Ali Khan/Scottish Chamber Orchestra/David Murphy


Samaagam, which is Sanskrit for "confluence" or "flowing together," is an astute and accurate title to characterize the sarod and orchestral music of Amjad Ali Khan and the Scottish Chamber Orchestra. The first three tracks are ragas that are each around seven minutes in length. The instrumental accompaniment is limited to the sarod and tabla without any vocalizations. The remainder of the instrumental songs are arranged in three groups with three songs developed by Amjad, seven traditional ragas in short duration of thirty seconds to just under four minutes, and the final set includes the same three ragas in the beginning set with orchestral accompaniment. Samaagam is an instrumental and orchestral fans paradise. In fact, some of the compositions resemble the classical music of the Mongolian steppes or Central Asia. Amjad is sure to strike a 'chord' with every listener within earshot. An informative booklet discusses the music in-depth in English and French. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Rufus Reid & Out Front's 'Hues Of A Different Blue'

Hues Of A Different Blue

The richly-textured, jazz release, Hues Of A Different Blue, are not blues and in no way signify a somber tone. In fact, the release is rather bubbly with equal amounts of piano accompaniment, guitar, trumpet, double bass, drums, and saxophones. Moreover, the music is entirely instrumental. The music is more aligned with blue side of cool. Rufus Reid knows how to liven up any situation by creating engaging instrumentals with fun rhythms and sounds. An almost Brazilian composition, 'Francisca,' features some airy vocals and breezy guitar strumming from Toninho Horta. A mix of classic jazz, cool jazz, and Latin-tinged tunes incorporate a few ethnic influences, though primarily the music is good ol' American jazz. Fourteen tracks of really good music provide a lengthy listening session. If jazz is on your mind, then Rufus Reid & Out Front is not too far behind. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bruce Barth Trio - 'Live At Smalls'

Live At Smalls

Bruce Barth, a talented pianist and composer, produces another wonderful album of the smoothest jazz around. Together with Vicente Archer on bass and Rudy Royston on drums, Live At Smalls brings out the best in jazzy rhythms and melodies. The unique recording environment of a live performance was recorded at the Smalls Jazz Club in Greenwich Village, New York City. Minimal editing and sparse applause are no cause for concern, as the music speaks volumes in many ways. Each composition is intrumental without the interference of vocals. The serene 'Peaceful Place' and happy 'Oh Yes I Will' are signature tunes with each instrument basking in the spotlight. The lazy 'Afternoon In Lleida' is drum-heavy with varying degrees of piano and bass accompaniment. As a whole, Live At Smalls is a quaint little recording with all that jazz and more. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, April 15, 2011

CD Review: Donna De Lory's 'Remixes'


Donna De Lory releases a mix of material from her previous albums, The Lover and the Beloved, Sky Is Open, and Sanctuary. However, the songs are remixed without losing any of the musical integrity or charisma. The contemporary electronica elements border on heavenly with soaring vocals, crystalline percussion, and airy arrangements. The songs are a mix of English and Sanskrit lyrical mantras with some characteristic Indian percussion and the modern effects of Wah!, Girish, Go-Ray, Krishna Das, and others. The yoga beats contain pop-infusions even purists will love. Eleven different tracks or remixes with familiar titles, such as 'Jai Ma,' 'Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu,' and 'Om Namah Shivaya' showcase some of Donna's best vocal displays. For a truly introspective and spiritual journey, Donna De Lory knows how to evoke transcendental tendencies with music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Club d'Elf's 'Electric Moroccoland' and 'So Below'

Electric Moroccoland/So Below [2 CD]

Face Pelt Records

Boston is a long way from Morocco...and it isn't. Just listen to Club d'Elf's latest 2-CD set of Moroccan trance, dub, rock, and improvisational roots music. The Club assembles nearly two-dozen musicians with special guest star and sintir icon, Hassan Hakmoun. Nearly two-and-a-half hours of music and twenty-five songs span the entire collection. The Moroccan and North African percussion and rhythms are mainly the driving force behind Electric Moroccoland. So Below is more of a contemporary vision with a little more electronica, dance, dub, and techno than the other disc. In effect, the title connotation suggests an underground beat or music. Of course, anytime dance or club trance music is recorded it is not too far from the bellows of the underground scene. Thankfully, this music is enjoyed top-side for everyone to hear. The largely instrumental compositions encompass a range of tones, colours, and melodies -- all of them good. If you want to experience the trance, jazz, improvisational, and dreamy sounds of North Africa via Boston, then Club d'Elf is the place to be. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Prem Joshua & Band

Luminous Secrets

Prem Joshua was born in Germany with an extensive travel history through Turkey, Iran, Greece, India, Afghanistan, and Pakistan. As a master sitarist, Bansuri flutist, saxophonist, and vocalist, Prem incorporates the musical spices of Central and South Asia into an electric stew of delectable tracks. The Hindi vocals are used sporadically throughout the mostly instrumental recording. A variety of instruments are used, including the harp, electric guitar, Bulgarian bagpipes, bass, bells, tabla, darbouka, cajon, congas, bendir, castanets, djembe, keyboards, kalimba, berimbao, and others. The overall effect is a form of South Asian world-beat music with a hint of everything else. The music is not a continuous dance-beat album, but an album of serene beauty with melodies and vocals that seem to float effortlessly through the air from continent to continent. At times, the music is funky, jazzy, folksy, and trance-inducing. At any rate, Prem Joshua & Band is a fascinating group with good music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mali's Mamadou Diabate Is Back With 'Courage'


After Mamadou's 2009 Grammy-Award winning release of Douga Mansa, he follows up with an equally engaging and talent-driven release titled Courage. Even though the liner notes claim an innovative musical departure, the music still retains a pleasant, North African vibe of balafon, kora, calabash, acoustic bass, and ngoni. However, the kora is the primary instrument of song on this album. The twinkling strings are as smooth as glass and the other instruments seem to dance around the kora; almost worshipping its dream-like tendencies. Courage is completely void of vocals. In essence, the instruments 'sing' in their own unique ways. The balafon dances around on 'Kita Djely,' while the kora is the focus of the aptly-named 'Kora Journey' and the similarly-appealing 'Bogna.' Perhaps, Courage is named for the relatively new approach to kora music, but that does not make it any less attractive. For instance, the traditional instruments are the sole focus, while modern instruments and electronic arrangements are non-existent. Anyone with a preference for Malian music will love Mamadou's new work, but jazz, folk, classical, and New Age fans will find something special, too. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, April 14, 2011

CD Review: When Harry Tries To Marry [sndtrk]

Various Artists [sndtrk]

When Harry Tries To Marry

The music of the 2011 film of the same name includes elements of love, fun, and good times with various artists from the USA and India. As a romantic comedy, When Harry Tries To Marry is filled with Bollywood-infused pop tunes with dance grooves, lyrical medleys, and folk music. The poignant folk tunes of Sarah Sharp are especially intriguing and sincere. The pop-rock infusions of The June Junes stand out on 'She's The One' and 'Setting Sun.' Indian-greats, Udit Narayan, Madhushree, Rishikesh Kamerkar, and Shreya Goshal provide a fresh feel to the film's content. The alternative-folk group, Craig Marshall, light up the soundtrack on 'It's Coming Back,' 'Settle For Me,' and 'Desperately' with some resemblance to the alternative-folk-roots music of Owsley, The Wallflowers, Soul Coughing, or The Devlins. The electronic group, Small*Star, provides a techno-trance element that livens the moods with a catchy club beat. The compilation is well-suited to the film and doesn't leave the listener in pain. Every track is worthy of praise and recognition. If you are seeking a fun and catchy album, then try this one today. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Asaf Sirkis Trio Let's Go On 'Letting Go'

Letting Go

Stonedbird Productions

The instrumental trio is Asaf Sirkis on drums, Yaron Stavi on electric bass, and Tassos Spiliotopoulos on guitars, with special guest, Patrick Bettison on harmonica. The Israeli-born, UK-resident, Asaf Sirkis, leads the group with an experimental-jazz-rock-infused concoction of the best instrumental music produced in a long time. The music is reminiscent of Jonas Hellborg and the late-Shawn Lane. There are energetic parts, as well as quieter moments that let the mind wander without leaving the planet. Speaking of planets, 'Other Stars and Planets' is more of a jazz-centered composition without all the technological wizardry so common in space and ambient music. This is a jazzy composition with all the twists and turns of a good story without the words. Seven long tracks entrance the listeners with a sense of awe, calmness, and introspection. The few instruments that are used are relatively in-tune with each other and rather fluid in form without any slip-ups or missteps. Anyone with an ear for the instrumental will find Letting Go quite compelling. So, indulge in it today and let yourself go! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Joana Amendoeira's 'Setimo Fado'

Setimo Fado

The long line of fadistas to grace the stages of the world in song and voice are nevertheless nostalgic, as they are entertaining. Mariza, Amalia Rodrigues, and others are sure to come to mind in any discussion of fado music. The Portuguese-native, Joana Amendoeira, is a young singer of traditional fado compositions. Seventeen tracks with a mellow, yet emotive vibe on strings, percussion, guitar, and piano round out the staple repertoire for fadistas worldwide. The unwavering vocal performances signal a remarkable set of songs that are as classy as they are stylistic. Passionate songs of longing and hope provide listeners with a great mix of vocal fun for all ages. The piano adds a jazzy element to some of the tracks. Fans of Latin, Fado, and European vocal music will find happiness in the sad songs of Joana Amendoeira. Liner notes are included in Portuguese. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, April 7, 2011

CD Review: Kasha Nasha's 'Ministry Of Carnival'

Ministry Of Carnival

Kasha Nasha is a band hailing from the Netherlands with a repertoire of Gypsy, European, and Russian musical tones. The prevalent Gypsy band element is surprisingly authentic, despite the fact none of the band members are of Roma descent. Still, the Bulgarian, Romanian, Moldovan, Russian, Hungarian, Macedonian, and Armenian influences are present throughout. The electric guitar shines through on a few tracks with the familiar Gypsy rhythms of brass and strings. A comedic track, "Horo Zhipoesjnetni," is an ode for Borat Sagdiyev from the film Borat. The fast-paced "High Speed Shoarma Eating Contest," the rocked-out "Worst Kaas Scenario," and the Cuban-tinged "Qbuzz," represent some of the diversity on Ministry Of Carnival. Whether you are Roma or not, Kasha Nasha proves that Gypsy music is fun, accessible, and in short, a riot. Ministry Of Carnival is a party of Kasha Nasha-nomic proportions! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mathieu Sourisseau & Etenesh Wassie

Belo Belo

Ethiopia's Etenesh Wassie and France's Mathieu Sourisseau form a collaboration of mostly Ethiopian-derived songs and traditional musical structures. Mathieu's contribution is on acoustic bass, while Etenesh's contribution is her voice. Of course, guest musicians provide additional musical accompaniment on trumpet, guitar, bass, and cello. This is not a rock or modern recording. Instead, the traditional vocal tunes of Ethiopia are explored with various avant-garde instrumental accompaniment. The fusion, or avant-garde feel of the album rests on the vocal outbursts of Etenesh and the gritty or choppy guitar playing. In effect, Belo Belo is almost an Ethiopian grunge recording with some throat-singing thrown in on "Ende Matew Style." The mix of soft and heavy tones accurately displays the wide vocal and instrumental range. At any rate, the music encapsulates the charm of a French cafe with the charisma of an innovative performer transcending both time and generations. Liner notes are in French and English. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Dave Dale & Nadaji Rocks Out on 'Mantra Rocks'

Mantra Rocks

The modern yoga rock genre seems to be growing with the likes of Wah!, MC Yogi, Lokah, Go-Ray, Krishna Das, and others. Now you can add Dave Dale & Nadaji to the mantra mix. Mantra Rocks is a soul-stirring, harmonious journey with blissful melodies, vocals, and instruments. Dave plays guitar, bass, percussion, and electronic programming, while Nadaji is the harmonium master and vocalist. As a whole, Mantra Rocks seems to be more structured and focused than other recordings. Furthermore, most of the songs are four to seven minutes in length, which provides enough of a variety to entertain the listener without fatigue. Whether it is New Age, rock, pop, meditational, or world music, Mantra Rocks is the pulse of the Eastern devotional lifeblood. Eight tracks showcase a beautiful set of music that transcends conformity with a healthy blend of catchy and infectious songs for this world...and the next! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Scotland's Julie Fowlis with 'LIVE At Perthshire Amber'

Live At Perthshire Amber

Recorded on October 29th, 2010 at the Perthshire Amber Festival in Scotland, Live At Perthshire Amber is the first live album release from Julie Fowlis. The Scottish-Gaelic singer also plays flute on this one. Additional muscians include her husband and bouzouki player, Eamon Doorley, Duncan Chisholm on fiddle, Tony Byrne on gutiar, Martin O'Neill on bodhran, and Dougie MacLean on tenor guitar. The album opens with a solo vocal performance by Julie. The instrumentation joins in on subsequent tracks with all the energy and enthusiasm of a Scottish festival without being too big to detract from its family-sized, humble roots as a perfect introduction into a quaint musical gathering. The album is scattered with introductions, applause, and praise. However, the audience is quite respectful and never overpowers the music or instruments. Thirteen tracks are culled from Julie's previous releases, Uam, Cuilidh, and Mar a Tha Ma Chridhe. The vocal calisthenics are astounding, and at first glance, difficult to discern for the listener not well-versed in Gaelic. Luckily, the music stands out high above any linguistic incapacities. Enjoy Julie 'Live...' wherever you are! ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, April 1, 2011

CD Review: Olga Milla's 'rePercusion: Baladas AfroPeruanas Y Otras Agitaciones'

rePercusion: Baladas AfroPeruanas Y Otras Agitaciones


Peru's Olga Milla is a songstress that breathes life into the Afro-Peruvian and Creole-influenced melodies and rhythms. With a voice younger in tone and range than fellow countrywoman Susana Baca, Olga maintains a lively voice backed by a talented percussion crew. rePercusion..., which is roughly translated as Afro-Peruvian Ballads and Other Agitations, is a tropical journey with tons of sunny melodies to brighten any day. The Latin, African, and South American elements are perfect for a relaxing evening with the occasional dance step or two. The energetic percussion forces meld wonderfully with the guitar and vocals without ever tiring or fading into a slump of boredom. The fretless bass is enough to satisfy any fan of Peruvian fusion or improvisation. The liner notes contain English summaries of the songs with Spanish lyrics. The only repercussion by owning Olga's latest album will be in the form of an addiction to playing the album over...and over again. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hungary's Tarkany Muvek

Arcomba Az Arcod Vested (You Etched Your Face In Mine)


Tarkany Muvek is a fascinating music group from Hungary. The Gypsy influence is prevalent with the presence of the cymbalom, flute, sax, strings, and vocals. The energetic "Csipd" opens the album with a giddy, Gypsy rhythm with a playful cymbalom. Vocalist Paar Julianna reflects some of the poetic delivery and sound of the numerous contemporary Scandinavian singers today. The jazzy "Semmi Sem Hasanlit Hozzad" permeates the ears with a Gypsy-tinged sax medley with softer cymbalom tones. The piano-like sounds of the cymbalom are characteristic of Eastern Europe, Gypsy culture, and mainstays in traditional orchestras. The pleasant sounds of "Oszi Vazlat," along and Paar's vocals, make the song a perfect introduction into the next song, "Ugy Szeretlek". This song, along with "Csiririp," contains a spritely rhythm indicative of America's Roaring 20's era. Although, both songs are distinctly Hungarian, they still resemble the nostalgic era. Tarkany Muvek are perfect for fans of European/Scandinavian folk, Gypsy, Balkan, and even Klezmer music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Azam Ali's 'From Night To The Edge Of Day'

From Night To The Edge Of Day

Iranian-born and US-based, Azam Ali, presents a multicultural recording of lullabies from around the Middle East. The spacious and subtle instrumentation are as vast as the regions the songs originate from. For instance, Azam incorporates lullabies from Azerbaijan, Turkey, Iran and Iraq. Azam's voice is steeped in tradition with a warm and tender sensibility that eschews a mystical or transcendental quality. In a similar manner, the instrumentation includes a variety of indigenous strings, percussion, and plucked instruments. Inspired by the birth of her son, From Night To The Edge Of Day is an inward journey of a calming peace and charisma that leaves every listener in awe. Ten songs and fifty-minutes of music provide a good deal of entertainment. Fans of Middle Eastern music, lullabies, New Age, and world fusion will find Azam Ali's latest release heartwarmingly appealing. ~ Matthew Forss