Thursday, October 27, 2011

CD Review: Joseph Sullinger's 'Earth Voyage'

Joseph Sullinger
Earth Voyage
Soundship Music

Based in Mexico, Joseph Sullinger explores the world of smooth, Latin fusion with a touch of flamenco, new age, and classical elements with lively percussion. The fusion sounds of guitar and percussion resemble the music of Ottmar Liebert or Strunz and Farah. The ten tracks are named after various elemental terms, including "New Shores," "The Ocean," and "Sands of Time." The instrumental compositions are perfect for any earthly voyage at any time. Matthew Montfort and Ancient Future are two other musicians with a knack for latin fusion and classical guitar. Joseph is accompanied by the members of the Mexico City Philharmonic Orchestra. In addition to classical guitar, the violin, tuba, melodion, electric bass, keyboards, synth, and drums round out the instrumental repertoire. Start your earthly voyage with Joseph Sullinger's 'Earth Voyage'. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Cas Haley's 'Gifts To Give'

Cas Haley
Gifts To Give
Easy Star Records

Probably best-known for his America's Got Talent performances, Cas Haley has lit up the stage across the country with his own brew of Texan-blues-reggae music over the past few years. On this release, Cas starts out with an original Christmas tune, "Gifts To Give," which sets the bar high for the remainder of the album. Cas' unique vocal tricks and vocal swagger is welcoming and never obtuse or harsh. Also, Cas adds his own trumpet embellishments with his voice. In addition, a variety of scat lyrics and finger-snapping sets the acoustic and family-friendly tone of his music. Iconic Christmas classics, such as "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer," and "The Christmas Song" are made personal by Cas' inherent singing abilities and warm guitar strumming. The music is charming, sweet, and carefree without straying too far from the original compositions. Give the gift of joy this season with Cas Haley at your side. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Navarra's 'Nya Fonster'

Nya Fonster
Kakafon Records

Hailing from Sweden, Navarra tempts the soul into dancing, humming, and dreaming of happy times as the percussion, fiddles, and vocals beckon the listener to lean in closer and participate. The twelve tracks are in Swedish in the liner notes. The piano rhythms and assorted percussion provide a cheery atmosphere and nostalgic examination of Scandinavia's folk-roots phenomenon. The tender and sweet vocals and varied playing styles throughout provide the listener with a quality recording of music from the land of Triakel, Garmarna, and Gjallarhorn. In this case, Navarra contains more experimental folk rhythms with a hint of jazz and lounge music that is not really prevalent from other comparable groups in Scandinavia. Nya Fonster, or New Windows, is a very delightful recording to be enjoyed by everyone seeking good music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kali Mutsa's 'Ambrolina'

Kali Mutsa
Shock Music

Kali Mutsa, also known as Celine Reymond, is a Chilean actress and singer. Now, Kali is releasing her latest recording of seven relatively short songs. Her influences stem from Andean popular music, to Gypsy, Bollywood, Spanish, and electronic experimentation. The sounds are rather mixed with different melodies, punchy percussion, and expressive vocals that fall somewhere between Shakira, Lady Gaga, and Cibelle. The urban and not-so-urban lyrical wordplay is certainly steeped in South American sensibilities without the typical pan pipes and accordions indicative of folk or roots music from the region. The swirling melodies and alternative percussion makes Ambrolina rise above the average fanfare and solidify her mark in the world of Chilean trance-pop. The songs are diverse enough to keep one interested. If you are interested in popular Chilean music, then add Ambrolina to the list of must-haves! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers' 'Reconciliation'

Daphna Sadeh & The Voyagers

Daphna Sadeh is a double-bass player based in the U.K. Daphna creates a mix of Klezmer, classical, Middle Eastern, and Jazz-focused compositions that incorporate the clarinet, flute, recorder, 12-string guitar, acoustic/electric guitar, drums, darbuka, riq, frame drum, mandolin, and trombone. Ivor Goldberg adds vocals, but most of the eight tracks are instrumental. The sauntering rhythms and quirky horns, strings, and percussion create a mesmerizing mix of classic music for young and old. The upbeat rhythms are sometimes interrupted by slower, more somber tones indicative of Ladino or Sephardic music. At any rate, Daphna and her Voyagers play the instruments with such a fine command that each instrument has time to shine to its fullest potential without tiring. If you are seeking the sounds of the Middle East and Jewish Diaspora, then look no further. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Atongo Zimba's 'Sankune Sounds'

Atongo Zimba
Sankune Sounds
Sankune Sounds

Atongo Zimba is from Ghana, but based in the U.K. Sankune Sounds highlights Atongo's talented vocal and instrumental skills. For instance, Atongo is a master of the molo--a two-stringed lute common throughout the Sahara. Though Ghana is known for highlife music, Atongo creates a music that is rhythmic, powerful, and sweet that does possess funk, jazz, and highlife qualities. On "Sela woo san boma tanna bia" the vocals sound similar to Zimbabwe's Oliver Mtukudzi. Atongo is joined by rhythmic guitar, flute, gombe bass drum, backing vocals, and assorted percussion that livens the Ghanaian musical spirit immensely. The lo-frill recording is perfect for those palm wine parties and relaxing by the beach. It is equally enjoyable in front of a fireplace or a den. Atongo is a talented singer and performer that creates music as easily as one breathes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Caci Vorba's 'Tajno Biav (Secret Marraige)'

Caci Vorba
Tajno Biav (Secret Marriage)
Oriente Musik

The Polish-Ukrainian band, Caci Vorba, releases their newest album that does not depart from previous influences and elements. For instance, Tajno Biav contains the same driving rhythms and melodies from the Balkan region and Gypsy traditions of Eastern Europe. There are songs from Hungarian, Russian, Romanian, and Bulgarian dance, fiddle, and waltz traditions with all the fixings (i.e. musical elements) for a good time on Friday night, or any other night for that matter. The music is never dull and it changes from contemplative, playful, fast-paced, to slow, relaxing, and thought-provoking. The female lead vocals and male backing vocals follow the music closely without overtaking the instruments. The violin, spoons, accordion, guitars, tambourine, darbuka, bouzouki, mandolin, baglama, and dumbek provide a nice blend of European and Middle Eastern elements. Still, the music is firmly rooted in the Gypsy traditions of Eastern Europe. Caci Vorba succeeds again with an album that will not remain secretive for long! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: John Matarazzo of Logical Drift

Logical Drift
Logical Drift

Famous music writer, producer, composer, and performer, John Matarazzo, creates an aural atmosphere gleaming with ambiance, contemplative melodies, and cinematic percussion. With the help of Logan Strand, an accomplished producer and engineer for acts like the late-Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Herbie Hancock, and Bill Laswell, adds a touch of engineering and electronic sampling to the musical mix with fine results. The instrumental compositions are inspired by the Middle East and Mediterranean regions. The electronic washes, blurbs, and blips add a contemporary feel to the music. Track titles such as "Judean Desert," "Rain Queen of the Negev," and "Dead Sea Dawn" reflect the fascination with this particular region. However, the music is not folk, traditional, or rock. Instead, the music is light, new age, and electronic with wonderful sounds indicative of Tangerine Dream's earlier work. Nevertheless, Logical Drift is a logical choice for fans of new age, atmospheric, and instrumental works. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Valravn's 'Re-Cod3d'

Westpark Music

Hailing from the Faroe Islands, Valravn is an experimental, roots, and electronica group that is in the same vein as Garmarna, Sorten Muld, and Gjallarhorn. Coming from a Scandinavian-like musical background, Valravn's music has been remixed, or in this case--'re-coded'--as songs from previous albums are reinvented on this current release. Remixes are provided by the famous Carmen Rizzo, as well as Omnia, ORKA, Transglobal Underground, Euzen, Faun, Soren Bendixen, The Kenneth Bager Experience, Midi Lidi, and Pawel Rychert. The songs are a bit quirky, dark, and uptempo in an alternative way without resorting to flashy dance tracks or light and airy elevator music. There are male and female vocals. Valravn's remix masters came from all over the world to work on this project, including Poland, Norway, U.K., Netherlands, USA, Denmark, Germany, and Czech Republic. Re-cod3d is a solid release for fans of previous material. However, the contemporary setting may attract a new crowd. At any rate, the music of the Faroe Islands is on the map for world music fans! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Damjan Krajacic's 'Glide'

Damjan Krajacic
RoundTone Records

Zagreb-born and L.A.-based, Damjan Krajacic knows how to play the flute and create wonderful Afro-Cuban rumba, Latin-jazz, and nostalgic, downtempo lounge music. Damjan's vocals and flute are accompanied by piano, fender rhodes, congas, bass, drums, and assorted percussion. However, a majority of the music is instrumental. The fluttering flute melodies, spicy percussion, and punchy piano sounds make Glide stand out from the crowd. You will hear sounds from Cuba, Brazil, Caribbean, and America. If you are interested in jazz, samba, Latin music, and rumba styles thrown into an experimental mix of aural colors, then Glide is right for you. Perhaps the only musical element indicative of Damjan's Croatian past is the piano. The jazzy nuances and tender melodies are ideal for fans of jazz and world music. Let Damjan take you on a journey where you glide effortlessly through the musical styles created by his mind and body. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Annlaug's 'November'


Annlaug's Norwegain roots shine through on her latest release from Scandinavia's fiddle country. However, the songs feature not only strings, but guitars, shruti box, accordion, banjo, ukulele, and percussion. Recorded in Scotland, Annlaug explores the music of not only Norway, but the British Isles as well. The guitars and percussion add a lively touch to the music. This is not simple violin or fiddle music with a solo voice. Instead, Annlaug's rich, musical arrangements retain a sense of roots and tradition, while concomitantly surging forward into the modern world with a slightly experimental and pop feel thrown in (though, not haphazardly). Annlaug's Norwegian song titles are translated into English in the liner notes. Also, English song lyrics are provided in the liner notes. November retains the sound quality of Faroe Islands' Valravn and the quirkiness of Denmark's Sorten Muld wrapped up in the arrangements of Heidi Talbot or Karine Polwart. Clearly, Annlaug knows how to create catchy, engaging, and vivid pieces of musical magic. ~ Matthew Forss   

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

CD Review: The Cambodian Space Project's '2011: A Space Odyssey'

The Cambodian Space Project
2011: A Space Odyssey
Metal Postcard

The Cambodian-based band, The Cambodian Space Project, is made up of a Cambodian singer, Srey Thy, and a cohort of French and Australian ex-pat musicians. The result is a candid, folk-rock, and surfedelica that explores the Golden Age of Cambodia's hit-makers--Pan Ron and Ros Sereysothea. The Klezmer-like sound of the opener, "Snaeha Doc Toek Kmom (Love Like Honey)," is a catchy tune with accordion, clarinet, and all the familiar bass, keyboards, and guitars that made the nostalgic music so popular. The traditional tune, "Tek Tum (Big Water)," is great work with harmonica drones, accordion sounds, and a solid beat that is as magical as it is creative. The 60s pop sound of "Pros Kangaroo" is a perfect little tune with a California-sound that is uniquely Cambodian. The words of Ros Sereysothea's "Kolos Srey Chaom (Love God)" features the melody of the Dutch band Shocking Blue's 1969 hit, "Venus." All in all, The Cambodian Space Project is the rock-child of America's Dengue Fever. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Gabriel Palatchi Band's 'Diario de Viaje'

Gabriel Palatchi Band
Diario de Viaje

Argentinian-born and Canadian-based, Gabriel Palatchi and his band of Latin-jazz connoisseurs create engaging and fresh songs on trumpet, flute, keyboard, piano, drums, assorted percussion, bass, and even vocals. Gabriel incorporates lively tones and rhythms that are well-suited for the Afro-Cuban, Latin-jazz, and South American aficionado. The classical melodies echo back to the spy-thriller soundtracks of the 1970s or 80s throughout South America, USA, and even Bollywood. The slightly funkadelic tunes--notably, "Electroshock," "Raices," and "Chilangotango"--transcend musical boundaries and eras with catchy, musical numbers fun for the whole family. The mostly instrumental tunes are great for relaxing, dancing, and contemplating the meaning of Latin-jazz in a modern context. Importantly, a sense of musical realism and creative authenticism cuts across genres, generations, and geographic locales. The creative spirit of Gabriel's band makes Diario de Viaje (Travel Diary) well worth the journey down to your locale music store or online retailer. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Afrolicious' 'A Dub For Mali'

A Dub For Mali
ESL Music

Afrolicious is the result of Pleasuremaker (a.k.a Joe McGuire's) love of DJing and the sounds of North Africa. "Thursday Night Kinda" features some scat vocals by Baba Duru and a host of jazzy-electronica in the vein of Action Figure Party. It's not too hard nor too soft--it's just right. The electronic backbone and kora-melodies with miscellaneous sounds and cool grooves are featured on the title track, "A Dub For Mali." The Issa Bagayogo-esque vocals are provided by Burkina Faso's Yacouba Diara. "Foolin'" features the Trinidadian presence of Fresh Is Life with a funky, Caribbean element. The final track, "Vampires," sought the talents of Thievery Corporation's Rob Garza and the famous singer, Femi Kuti. The electronica, funk mix is loaded with nostalgia and futuristic embellishments that carry the track into an otherworldly realm. Femi's vocals are perfect, as well as the arrangements. The album is rich with sound and head-bobbing rhythms. The album length is only 23 minutes, but don't let that be a deterrent for sampling the electrified sounds of North Africa's roots music. A modern marvel and urban delight. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tarana's 'After The Disquiet (EP)'

After The Disquiet (EP)

Tarana's live release of four songs recorded at The Bop Shop in Rochester, New York on March 8, 2011, borders on Indian, classical, downtempo, and electronic genres. The amalgamation of sounds from drums, electronics, and Trina Basu's violin, provides a solid, improvisational-like quality to the music. The four songs are: "Disposable," "Night Song," "Black Teeth of Trees," and "Hava." Actually, "Have" and "Disposable" are the only two songs directly influenced by India, while "Black Teeth of Trees" is a stirring ode of electronica delight without all the showy trance or dance beats of the hottest night-club. Instead, the song weaves its way through a dark world of odd sounds and the drone of a violin. "Night Song" is jazz-influenced and a musical nod to jazz-bassist, Wilber Morris. The wholly instrumental album is a modern romp in the world of spacey, urban, and ethnic electronica. Despite its short length, Tarana creates memorable tracks that seem to last a lot longer than time would allow. Still, adventurous electronica fans with an Indian twist would relish this release the most. ~ Matthew Forss  

Wednesday, October 5, 2011

CD Review: Simon Thacker & Nava Rasa Ensemble's 'Nada Ananda'

Simon Thacker & Nava Rasa Ensemble
Nada Ananda
Slap The Moon Records

Classical guitarist, Simon Thacker, is a stunning, Scottish performer of Western, European, and South Asian musical styles. Together with the Nava Rasa Ensemble, Simon creates wonderful musical pieces with musicians as diverse as Brazil's Mario Caribe on bass; Sarvar Sabri on tabla; Jyotsna Sriknath on violin; and Nigel Osborne and Shirish Korde as composers. The album is divided into two segments: a three-part concerto for guitar and chamber ensemble and a six-track portion composed by Nigel Osborne, featuring the classical guitar and various strings. The Nava Rasa Ensemble features not only Simon Thacker on guitar and Mario Caribe on bass, but also contributions from the Edinburgh Quartet, Tristan Gurney, Philip Burrin, Michael Beeston, Mark Bailey, and Iain Sandilands. The entire album only runs about forty-minutes. However, the music is quite dramatic, brooding, and contemplative. The mix of classical and Indian music is brilliant, moving, and creative. The instrumental--and slight avant-garde album--is ideal for fans of L. Subramaniam or Matthew Montfort. ~ Matthew Forss