Friday, May 30, 2014

CD Review: War Poets' 'American Police State'

War Poets
American Police State

Minnneapolis, MN-based and socially-aware, War Poets take the world by storm with creative, roots-rock-inspired tunes on their latest five-track release. Members include Jenny Case, Rex Haberman, Maureen Koenig McFarlane, Jonny James, Whelan Q Keenan, and Park Evans. Influenced vocally by Tom Petty, Bruce Springsteen, and Jakob Dylan, War Poets bring together a great set of songs that are all different and represent different topics, too. "Closing In" is a perfect roots-rock song with great vocals throughout. "8:05 On A Saturday" is a laidback, folk song with a slight country twang to the instrumental accompaniment. This is a nice example of American roots at its best. "Where Has Love Gone" begins with an upbeat, rock beat somewhat indicative of American music during the early 1990's. "Red Lake" is a similar tune with a grungy guitar set-up, but the track is reminiscent of something R.E.M. would probably produce. Even though the cover art suggests a more sinister recording, American Police State is rather tame from melodic point-of-view. Overall, War Poets receives high marks for lyrical content and melodic flow without any missteps. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Corvus' 'Never Forget'

Never Forget

Corvus is Arizona's premier heavy metal band. Their new album, Never Forget, will be ingrained in your mind with all of the memorable riffs and guitar solos littered throughout. "Through Dead Eyes" contains heavy beats with loud vocals, but a killer guitar solo and loud percussion. "Deja Vu" opens with a synth-like quality before delving right into a heavy mix of guitars, drums, and vocals. The song is a bit more melodic than other tracks in a Three Days Grace format. "The Spider And The Fly" is equally-melodic, but the thrash metal approach is wickedly fast at times and the vocals dark and moving. "Never Forget" begins with church bell-type sounds that fade out and a string-like medley of atmospheric beauty takes over for a brief moment. However, Corvus' rock side takes precedence with fast percussion, choppy guitars, and a deep bass. There are thirteen tracks in all. Nothing is amiss if you like the hard rock or metal genre. Whether you call it speed metal, melodic rock, thrash metal, or hard rock, Corvus is bound to take your breath away...and then sing about it. ~ Matthew Forss  

2-CD Review: Various Artists' 'Role: New Sounds of Brazil'

Various Artists
Role: New Sounds of Brazil [2-CD]
Mais Um Discos

The double-disc release, Role: New Sound of Brazil, is not your ordinary Brazilian album. This is not bossa nova or samba. Instead, the music is experimental, urban, electronica, indie rock, funk, hip-hop, and dark, brooding sounds on guitars, percussion, and samples. Both discs contain similar music that is amped-up with killer vocals and grooves that are almost indescribable, but can be included in avante-garde-grunge. The diverse vocals and instrumentation make the release a must-listen. Over forty tracks and nearly as many artists grace the albums. Fans of popular Brazilian music will get the most out of the tracks. However, anyone that wants an in-depth look at what's going on with Brazil's independent and underground music scene will find satisfaction in the tracks on Role: New Sounds of Brazil. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: See-I's 'Knowledge Shine Bright'

Knowledge Shine Bright
Fort Knox Recordings

Washington, DC's Afro-funk band, See-I, releases a new album that continues in their funk, house, trance, hip hop, and rock paths with Knowledge Shine Bright. The opening anthem, "Never Give Up," is a reggae, funk, and rock-infused medley of luscious sounds and catchy melodies with punchy horns, jingly guitars, and reggae vocals. A dozen tracks round out the album with classic funk rhythms, hip-hop grooves, and urban styles that combine electronica with jazzy horns. The entire collection of songs are especially likable, which is probably due to the catchy and infectious melodies. At any rate, See-I is not afraid of experimenting or mixing styles, instruments, or grooves. Get your soul filled with 'Knowledge', so it can 'Shine Bright.' ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Dona Onete's 'Feitico Cabloco'

Dona Onete
Feitico Cabloco
Mais Um Discos

Flamboyant songtress of seventy-three-years-young, Dona Onete graces our present with enlightening songs highlighting the Brazilian interior. Dona incorporates a variety of traditional dance rhythms and melodies with Caribbean salsa, samba, rap, and others all rooted in the culture of Brazil. The overall sound blends a bit of mariachi-like sounds with cumbia sounds and everything in-between. Don's vibrant vocals and happy spirit shines through on all of the tracks. There are eleven luscious tracks to indulge in. The music is general enough to appeal to Latin music fans, as well as anyone interested in South American, Caribbean, or Spanish music styles. Sink your teeth into the music of Brazil's Amazonian backbone. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star De Dakar's 'Live a l'Etoile'

Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star De Dakar
Live a l'Etoile
Teranga Beat

Nigerian-born with ties to Dakar, Senegal via Bamako, Mali, Dexter Johnson & Le Super Star De Dakar, was a talented performer on saxophone. The Afro-Cuban jazz concoctions are steeped in sax, percussion, and rollicking good riffs, licks, and chords. The giddy guitars are somewhat Congolese-related, but the music is inherently West African with a good dose of North American jazz similarities. There are thirteen tracks that span Dexter's playlist from the early 50's and 60's style of jazz to Afro-Cuban classics and boogaloo compositions. Anyone familiar with Dexter's work should obtain this recording. It was the last recorded performance before their departure to Abidjan, Ivory Coast in 1969. There are a few singers, including John Gomis and William & Maissa Ngom, which add a good level of diversity to the tracks. This is primarily an Afro-jazz recording, so if you are seeking traditional West African music, you should look elsewhere. Overall, Dexter hits some high notes here with nothing to complain about. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Srikalogy's 'New Paradigm'

New Paradigm
Black Swan Sounds

Srikalogy is a New York-based DJ, MC, producer, and percussionist with a connection to the West Indies, Caribbean, and a NYC Ashram. These life experiences were perfect for poetic storytelling through carefully-selected beats in the world music, electronica, and hip hop worlds. There is a South Asian vein that extends to kirtan or yoga-based stylings. The trumpet, mrdanga, keyboard, guitar, kalimba, and didgeridoo sets the tone for the urban and contemporary beats. Srikalogy's vocals are hip-hop based and a great delivery vehicle for his message. The electronic drones, punchy percussion, Enigma-like compositions are something worth listening to. Anyone with an interest in urban yoga music will love the compositions on New Paradigm. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Karikatura's 'Eyes Wide'

Eyes Wide

The New York City-based Karikatura produces a worldwide release of music inspired by many different countries and cultures. For example, there is nostalgic psych-funk inherent in "Someone," while a Balkan-Klezmer beat pervades "Brighton Beach" and a reggae beat percolates through "NYC Hustle." The band comprises of Ryan Acquaotta on lead vocals and percussion, Dima Kay on guitars, samples, back-up vocals, and glockenspeil, Eric Legaspi on bass, Morgan Greentstreet on drums, percussion, back-up vocals, and samples, Joe MF Wilson on sax and glockenspiel, and Ric Becker on trombone. Karikatura seems to capture different musical styles and make them their own. Where else could you find Zimbabwean chimurenga music and Klezmer music all on the same album? Eyes Wide is meant to open one's eyes and hearts to other musical styles and cultures. Karikatura still retains a unique voice amid all the influences and instruments. Everyone should check out Karikatura. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Figli Di Madre Ignota's 'Bellydancer'

Figli Di Madre Ignota
Godzilla Market

Hailing from Italy, these funk, punk, and psychedelic jazz magnates know how to create edgy and diverse musical stylings on Bellydancer. The vocals are in English and Italian. There are eleven tracks in all and each one has its own story and message. The punchy, rock-infused anthem, "Bellydancer," is a great jazzy track with youthful exuberance and pizzazz. The swirling beats of "Mediterranean Voodoo," showcases the group's creative efforts that incorporate jazz, punk, funk, and experimental elements without fault. The Balkan-tinged, psych-edged, and punk-ridden "Sex Music Pasta," is an upbeat, horn-laden tune with a punchy rhythm and loud vocals. Some of the songs have a classical edge, but the entire album is infused with Balkan and Mediterranean rhythms, psych, funk, jazz, and rock elements that make for an interesting album that purists should stay away from. Nevertheless, purists may cross-over and become a believer in good music - no matter where it comes from and how it is played. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Ola Cabo Verde'

Various Artists
Ola Cabo Verde

Lusafrica does it again with another stellar release. This one covers eighteen different artists from Cape Verde. There are nearly seventy-eight minutes of great, danceable music from some of the top artists in the country, including Neuza, Lura, Ze Luis, Tcheka, Boy Ge Mendes, Teofilo Chantre, among others. There is even a composition featuring the late-Cesaria Evora, alongside Lura on "Moda Bo." The music is highly-energetic and free-spirited. The combination of vocals, strings, guitars, percussion, and other instruments makes the album shimmer with musical satisfaction. The Afro-Caribbean sounds are somewhat Portuguese-inspired, along with other influences that are regional. The island country is known for morna music and other types. This album covers some of these styles and contemporary elements that are easy to assimilate and enjoy. Anyone with a passion for Cape Verde music will find Lusafrica's latest offering a 'must-have' without any reservations. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bria Skonberg's 'Into Your Own'

Bria Skonberg
Into Your Own
Random Act Records

Bria Skonberg is a trumpeter, singer, and composer with a knack for finding a happy medium between traditional and contemporary world jazz. The earthy vocals, punchy piano, light bass, soft sax, and flugelhorn all play a necessary role in Bria's music. The vocal stylings are a mix of lounge club and session jams. At any rate, a dozen songs round out the album with heartfelt vocals, soft horns, and sweet melodies that are classy and creative. Some of the songs a bit folksy with a funky, bluesy tone and pop standard vocals. However, the jazz vein is the strongest influence. Into Your Own is an aptly-titled album that showcases Bria's comfort and satisfaction with the new album. Fans of world jazz, pop standards, theatrical songs, and Americana will need to acquire this one asap. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nawa's 'Ancient Sufi Invocations & Forgotten Songs From Aleppo'

Ancient Sufi Invocations & Forgotten Songs From Aleppo
Lost Origins/Electric Cowbell

The first volume in a series to examine ancient Sufi, Christian chant, and secretive orders, Ancient Sufi Invocations & Forgotten Songs From Aleppo traces obscure and previously unreleased vocal music through various forms, including dhikr, maqam, and mowashah. The entire album is vocally-produced and it was recorded in a 500-year-old house in Aleppo, Syria. The musical recording was created by Jason Hamacher. However, the unlikely path of a punk drummer and photographer to capture the ancient Sufi singing styles of Syria was a wild proposition that eventually came to fruition. The six long tracks are only about a half-hour in total running length. Still, the music lingers on in a repetitive manner that reaches far beyond the thirty-minute mark. The songs are evenly-divided between ancestral dhikrs and maqams. Anyone interested in Sufi music, Syrian music, and chanting traditions from around the world will relish the historical delicacies inherent in Nawa's first release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Deva Premal & Miten with Manose's 'Mantras For Life'

Deva Premal & Miten with Manose
Mantras For Life
White Swan Records

The soothing sounds of Sanskrit mantras are eloquently and meditatively-captured throughout Mantras For Life. Deva Premal is the lead vocalist and tanpura player. However, Miten is also a vocalist and guitarist. Manose adds vocals and Bansuri flute to the mix for a truly thought-provoking and calming production. There are additional instruments, including cello, keyboards, santoor, harmonium, tabla, drums, bass, wurlitzer, fender rhodes, and other vocals. The hypnotic and swirling melodies and rhythms encapsulates the human spirit in an accessible and serene manner that is unsurpassed in most of today's music. There are a dozen tracks, which are mostly mantras. The repetitive nature of the songs ingrains a spiritual presence throughout the deliveries. The liner notes include Sanskrit and English descriptions. Anyone interested in kirtan, yoga, chant music, and hypnotic, trance-inducing compositions will love the music of Deva Premal, Miten, and Manose. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sia Tolno's 'African Woman'

Sia Tolno
African Woman

Hailing from Conakry, Guinea and raised in Sierra Leone, Sia Tolno releases a hot new album full of Afro-jazz, highlife, pop, and funky, Yoruba-infused beats that will shake one's body with happy vibes and grooves. Some of the lyrics touch on serious social issues and incidents pervasive in African society, but Sia should be thanked for highlighting the plight. With vocals akin to Benin's Angelique Kidjo, African Woman contains beautiful vocals that are classic, jazzy, and heartfelt. The contemporary release is a pan-African journey into the soul of an artist with incredible vocal talent and musicianship. The twelve track release contains many great tracks that are all highly recommended. Anyone interested in female Afro-beat music with a soul and a good heart should check out Sia Tolno's latest release, African Woman. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Baka Beyond's 'After The Tempest'

Baka Beyond
After The Tempest
March Hare Music

The Afro-Celtic band, Baka Beyond, grew out of a collaboration with the Baka of Cameroon with the musical styles of the Caribbean, Europe folk, and Afro-pop. The bubbly reggae-infused, "Heart Of The Night," is a perfect track for lounging. There are also Irish lullabies, Baka traditional songs, and Shakespeare-inspired compositions. The theatrical songs are full of life and quite varied. All of this success is owed to the instrumentalists and vocalists, including Martin Cradick on guitar, Su Hart on vocals, Kibisingo Douglas on bass guitar, Ayodele Scott on percussion, Paddy Le Mercier on violin, Clyde Kramer on drums, Ellie Jamison on vocals, and Molara on vocals. The uppity sound of "Mosumana Colle" is especially intriguing and friendly with vibrant percussion, lush vocals, and a Congolese-like guitar rhythm. After two decades of bringing Baka music to the world, Baka Beyond still has what it takes to keep listeners listening. Importantly, all royalties owed to the Baka musicians to to them via the Global Music Exchange ( ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Boulpik's 'Konpa Lakay'

Konpa Lakay

Boulpik is a Haitian group that resurrects the konpa musical style of the 1950's for a new generation. Konpa is a dance music that incorporates meringue music. This is not your typical meringue music; instead, Boulpik, which means "bullseye," produces a raw, organic, and country sound made from banjos, manoubas, and percussion with vocals. The mood of the music is very joyous and the instrumental arrangements are earthy and and enjoyable to say the least. This may have roots in folk music, but konpa, meringue, and Afro-Caribbean dance elements are the primary influence. The songs are in Haitian Creole and possess and strong nostalgic-tinged repertoire that blends perfectly with contemporary vocals. The tropical-infused, "Je Reviens Chez Nous," highlights the Canadian influence with a ballad not indigenous to Haiti. Overall, Boulpik hits the bullseye with Konpa Lakay. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bio Ritmo's 'Puerta Del Sur'

Bio Ritmo
Puerta Del Sur

Afro-Cuban salsa from Virginia? You bet. The guys of Bio Ritmo create foot-stompin' and head-bobbin' melodies ripe with salsa elements, vintage melodies, gritty guitars, punchy horns, and funky-experimental songs that are multinational and multi-faceted. There are glittering keyboard arrangements, down-and-dirty percussive set-ups, and fluid bass-lines. The last track, "Codeina," is more of a classical tune with strings at the beginning of the song, which then fade to make way for a Middle Eastern percussive section and vocal arrangements of a similar vein with a bit of electronica and jazz thrown in for fun. At any rate, the Latin groove, contemporary arrangements, and psych-funk-jazz concoctions are very enjoyable and a perfect companion for anyone seeking inventive and creative Afro-Cuban music with a few variations and influences. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kompania's 'Round Trip'

Round Trip

The Greek group, Kompania, releases an excellent new release aptly-titled Round Trip. The album touches on music beyond the traditional rebetiko fanfare with vibrant oud, baglama, zills, davul, darbouka, slide guitar, bouzouki, accordion, and guitar. There is still a good amount of Greek music here, but the instrumental repertoire opens up the tunes to influences across Europe, the Mediterranean, and parts of the Middle East. The Greek vocals are emotive, mournful, and happy throughout. In fact, the vocals are so powerful at times they tend to take on a life of their own. The vocal arrangements are diverse and appropriately match the instrumental sections. Vocals are attributed to Katerina Tsiridou, Sotiris Papatragiannis, and Dimitris Kranidas. The metallic bouzouki sounds are bright and cheery. The percussion is sparse, but precise. The entire package is enlightening and full of life with varied vocals and sounds that create a whirling atmosphere of sonic delight. Nothing is wrong here. Round Trip begins and ends with Kompania. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sonido Gallo Negro's 'Sendero Mistico'

Sonido Gallo Negro
Sendero Mistico

Mexico's engaging and psych-inducing ensemble, Sonido Gallo Negro, brings the sounds of the 1970's alive with cumbia-infused beats, boogaloo, chicha, huayno, and other styles in an action-packed, Farfisa organ-soaked delight of musical exploration in a contemporary context. The mostly instrumental tunes are littered with psych references that contain electric guitars, flowing rhythms, indigenous percussion, and electronic samples. The head-bobbing music is ripe with cumiba sounds and instrumental riffs that strike the soul with such a powerful chord that nothing is impossible for these guys. This is psych-funk music at its best. Fans of Turkey's Hayvanlar Alemi will find similarities with Sonido's music. Overall, Sendero Mistico is a wild journey with danceable rhythms and great melodies that transcend a defined description. However, everyone will find happiness in the tunes of Sonido Gallo Negro. Get your psych-on today! ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, May 29, 2014

CD Review: Sia Tolno's 'Mouka Mouka'

Sia Tolno
Mouka Mouka

Based in Conakry, Guinea, Sia Tolno brings a powerful voice with African-backed jazz, rock, and pop infusions on Mouka Mouka. The rather short EP contains five tracks that are featured on her latest release, African Woman. Whether this is an extended single release or EP, the result is the same: great music that is worth repeated listens. The jazzy, Afro-pop concoction, "African Police," showcases Sia's Angelique Kidjo-esque vocalizations and arrangements. The uncanny similarity to Benin's Angelique Kidjo is one of amazement and pride. The music is upbeat and littered with local issues surrounding male power, mutilation, women's rights, education, peace, and dance. The entire album is produced by Tony Allen, so you know it's gonna be good. The music is giddy, funky, and melodiously memorable. Fans of African contemporary music will love it's lush melodies, rhythms, and groovy vocalizations. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ibrahima Sarr's 'Danaya Percussion Presents Ibrahima Sarr'

Ibrahima Sarr
Danaya Percussion Presents Ibrahima Sarr
Kanaga System Krush

Ibrahima Sarr is a professional djembe player from Mali that has toured the world over the last few decades. Ibrahima incorporates various djembes, balafons, and vocals on the mostly instrumental and percussive release. The thunderous drums and lighter balafon sounds aptly showcase a dynamic range of sounds that are trance-inducing and memorable. the highly traditional sounds are not bluesy, contemporary, or rock-centered. Instead, the organic arrangements of vocals, drums, and balafons make the album shimmer with a nostalgic and historic presence. The talented group of instrumentalists make the album stand out, along with the various themes revolving around medical issues, ceremonies, and dances. The extensive liner notes illustrate some of the song meanings in English. Fans of Malian drumming and African dance music will love the entrancing melodies and rhythms produced by the drums, balafon, and sporadic vocals. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: 9Bach's 'Tincian'

Real World

Founded by singer Lisa Jen and guitarist Martin Hoyland, 9Bach takes the world by storm with inventive, contemporary Welsh music. The group's name is a play on words using the numeral "9" as "nain" and "bach" together to connote a cozy, warm frame of reference. Whether it is cozy, inviting, or infectious, 9Bach knows how to create meaningful sounds and melodies with equally-compelling vocals. The modern effort brings together folk, alternative, pop, and electronic elements to form a cohesive type of music that is memorable and refreshing. The diverse influences are what makes the music interesting and catchy. There is almost an ambient or new age feel to some of the songs. The Welsh vocals are unique and beautiful in the same manner. Some of the melodies are reminiscent of one of Hooverphonic's modern works. There are ten songs in all. There are no disappointments here. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Pete Alderton's 'Living On Love'

Pete Alderton
Living On Love
Ozella Music

Born in England, based in Germany, and vocals in English, Pete Alderton is a blues king with classic influences and thought-provoking storytelling on his debut release, Living On Love, which is a remastered version of the original release in 2006. "Song For David" is somewhat bluesy, but it takes on an alternative vein with a pop/rock setup on guitar. A piano tune, "Have The Roses Gone Dry," creates a more reflective tone with heartfelt vocals in an earthy manner. The ballad-esque tune is poignant and sweet. A number of tunes bring out the blues essence with organic vocals and a stellar delivery. "Living On Love" is a jaunty, blues-infused tune that encapsulates the real message of the album. There are seventeen tracks in all, but a few are spoken word skits or intros, which set the pace and tone appropriately. Pete's mature vocals and bluesy tunes go hand in hand. Anyone familiar with Pete's work will love it and anyone interested in blues music should check it out. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Hanneke Cassel's 'Dot The Dragon's Eyes'

Hanneke Cassel
Dot The Dragon's Eyes
Hearth Music

Based in Boston, Hanneke Cassel's fiery fiddling style incorporates a little Texas swagger, along with Cape Breton and Scottish music styles that make the entire project a foot-stompin' good time. There are twelve tracks that feature Hanneke's fiddle, but the piano, cello, viola, guitar, and trumpet are featured on other tracks for a truly unique and enjoyable experience. The somber and somewhat reflective "The Captain" features the earth fiddle, along with guitar and  other strings. Of course, a fiddle album would not be complete without a few waltzes, jigs, and reels, which are present here. The wholly instrumental album features great music with a mixed style that is sure to please fiddle fans and folk music connoisseurs. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Helge Lien Trio's 'Badgers And Other Beings'

Helge Lien Trio
Badgers And Other Beings
Ozella Music

The Helge Lien Trio hails from Norway and brings us a perfect blend of soothing jazz music that is created by drums, piano, and bass. The rather simplistic instrumental repertoire showcases a wide diversity with punchy drums, flowing and sweeping piano rhythms, and poignant bass-lines that make hearts smile. Helge Lien is the piano maestro, while Frode Berg is the bassist and Per Oddvar Johansen is the drummer. Running a few minutes under an hour, the album transcends time and space with beautiful melodies and rhythms that contain a level of classicism and pizzazz that are unforgettable. This is an ideal album for lounging or relaxing. It is very reflective and soothing. Notably, the entire album is void of vocals, so you can let the instrumental medley sweep you away and believe me; it will. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

CD Review: The New Mastersounds' 'Therapy'


Hailing from England, The New Mastersounds reinvents soul, funk, and jazz with subtle sounds that are fluid, pure, and memorable. The smooth jazz elements of “When It Rains…” is an excellent example of laid-back jazz with swishy percussion and bubbling guitar notes. “Whistle Song” contains a funky beat with throbbing B3 sounds and great drum-work. “Soul Sista” is a jazzy, funky, and piano-infused urban masterpiece with killer vocals and a beat that will kick you into next Tuesday. The fluttering sounds of piano, guitar, drums, electronics, and other instruments make Therapy stand out—in a good way. The reggae beats of "Stop This Game" showcases the diverse talent on this recording. A mix of male and female vocals amidst reggae, jazz, funk, soul, electronica, and pop round out the best parts of the album. In fact, there are absolutely no bad parts on the album. There's never been a better time to try Therapy! ~ Matthew Forss 

2-CD Review: Da Cruz' 'Disco E Progresso'

Da Cruz   
Disco E Progresso [2 CD]
Boom Jah Records

Brazilian-born and Swiss-based, Da Cruz enlightens listeners with giddy, soul-stirring dance music with equal amounts of dancehall, funk, new wave, samba, electronic, and pop elements. The new album is a two-disc set that is labeled “light” and “dark.” These connotations describe what is going on from a musical perspective in Brazil. The uppity tunes are still enchanting and catchy, despite the title monikers. On the “light” album, the jazzy “Nascer Livre” showcases some great vocals and instrumentation that is very showy and upbeat. The swaying rhythm of a seaside melody on “Din Din” possesses a laidback atmosphere that is timeless and nostalgic. “Tuda Flui” is a funk-inflected tune with light vocals and a jazzy vein. There are eleven tracks on the "light" CD. The "dark" CD contains ten tracks and songs that are more experimental with more jazzy, funk, electronic, and rock elements. The breakbeat sounds of "Cala a Boca" and the dark tones of "Aonde vai" signify a varied mix of music. The music tends to be a little more urban overall. The dark guitars and Garbage-esque arrangements on "Menino mau" showcase a different side of Da Cruz. No matter what side of Da Cruz you experience; you will be pleasantly surprised. ~ Matthew Forss    

Tuesday, May 27, 2014

CD Review: Anansy Cisse's 'Mali Overdrive'

Anansy Cisse
Mali Overdrive
Riverboat Records

Anansy Cisse presents a new album with bluesy, rock-infused compositions featuring Malian instruments and North African sensibilities. Anansy's mature voice is a fine accompaniment to the gritty, guitar playing. In addition, the soku fiddle, ngoni, bass, and calabash create a traditional sound overall. The lilting calabash and guitar on "Fati Ka" is top-notch. The very talented, Zoumana Tereta, is a prominent soku player and does not disappoint here. The music is electrified with an edgy presence and a historical vein. Mali Overdrive is not music that is redundant, overly-produced, or angst-ridden. Instead, Mali Overdrive encapsulates the essence of North African life with a guitar and several traditional instruments that sound like magic. If you like Malian guitar music, you will love Anansy Cisse. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Gjertrud Lunde's 'Hjemklang'

Gjertrud Lunde
Ozella Music

The German-based group spearheaded by Gjertrud Lunde brings a Norwegian presence to the mix, as all of the songs are sung in Norwegian, as well as French, English, and Portuguese. The album, which means "home sounds," is an excellent reflection of Gjertrud's heritage. The four-piece band incorporates a little guitar, electronics, piano, rhodes, percussion, drums, tabla, and trumpet. The plaintive piano melody of "Going Home" is a reflection of peace and solitude with yearning at the forefront. The jazzy and equally-contemplative, "Marche vers l'Aube" showcases trumpet and electronics in a new light without any vocalizations during the first two minutes of the song. At any rate, the jazzy piano, light percussion, worldly vocals, and experimental rhythms make Hjemklang stand out from other albums. Anyone interested in Scandinavian jazz, European pop, and great music in general, will love Gjertrud Lunde's first, full-length effort running over one hour in length. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Volga's 'Kumushki Pjut'

Kumushki Pjut
Asphalt Tango Records

Led by Armenian, Anzhelika Manukyan, Volga reinvents the traditional music of Russia using delicate house, dance, trance, and dub sounds that effervesce with soothing melodies and punchy rhythms. The Russian group resurrects ancient texts and performs them in modern contexts. The group comprises of Grammy Winner, Uri Balashov on zvukosuk and Tibetan cup, Alexey Ostashev on bass guitar, Sergei Klevensky on jaleika and bagpipe, and Roman Lebedev on guitar and electronic arrangements. Anzhelika is the lead vocalist. The poignant rhythms and electronic overtones are carefully selected and executed for a great result that is never too over-the-top. The mix of historical roots, modern rhythms, and various instruments make for a great album. The lilting melodies of "Kaverzi" appropriately demonstrates Anzhelika's emotive vocals and the sauntering guitar arrangements in a laid-back setting. "Postylyi Muzh" contains a pulsating rock guitar beat as an opener with recurring beats throughout. "Mala Nochka" possesses a cheery rhythm with rollicking bass, guitar, and percussion that eloquently accents the subtle electronic touches. Overall, Volga is one of the best groups to come out of Russia in recent memory. Enjoy it for yourself! ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, May 3, 2014

CD Review: Sakina's 'Roye Mi'

Roye Mi
ARC Music

A native of Kurdish Turkey, Sakina is an Austrian and German-based singer and composer that represents the folk and traditional music of Kurdistan - a region that includes Turkey, Iraq, Syria, and Iran. The ten-track release is rich with jazzy, upbeat, and sometimes mournful melodies and rhythms that are reminiscent of mugam music indigenous to the Middle East. Sakina employs various instruments to the mix to create a rich sound and highly-textured musical outcome. Some of the instruments you will hear include the German flute, guitar, violin, cello, bass, drums, oboe, piano, bilur, kemane, duduk, qanun, tembur, zurne, davul, and arbane. The music drifts into various regions across the Middle East and Central Asia with ease. The beautiful instruments, heartfelt vocals, and excellent musical delivery makes Roye Mi a winner all-around. It is the quintessential work of Sakina's being. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, May 2, 2014

CD Review: Pacifika's 'Amor Planeta'

Amor Planeta
Six Degrees

The Pacifika trio of vocalist Silvana Kane, bassist Toby Peter, and guitarist Adam Popowitz, creates a refreshing fusion album of pop/rock/funk sounds inherited from South American, Caribbean, and African sources. The sweet vocals of Silvana make the songs stand out, but the instrumentation is equally-compelling. Adam's Canadian roots and Toby's Barbados upbringing may be limited influences here, but there involvement propel the group into catchy melodies, serene rhythms, and fascinating tonal textures. There are ten tracks to satisfy your ears. The breezy songs are classy, professional, and outwardly appealing to anyone within ear-shot. The funky little rhythms and jazzy undertones make Amor Planeta shine with love from the artists and anyone that purchases the music. A moving, emotive, and intellectual release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Eccodek's 'Singing In Tongues'

Singing In Tongues
Big Mind/Black Swan

Canadian-based, Eccodek brings us a new recording of global dance, fusion, and world music that mixes contemporary electronica with exotic dub, ethnic folk, and indigenous voices and languages for a truly global journey. The music is a bit more spacious and varied than the music of Tulku. However, there are some trance elements from South Asia and Africa. The groove-laden bass-lines, killer rhythms, and infectious sounds make Eccodek shimmer with a multinational beauty. Eccodek is joined by kirtan singer, Onkar Singh, hip-hop hipster, MC Yogi, Balkan beacon, Meral Mert, and Morgan Doctor - a talented drummer. Of course, there are additional musicians and instruments, which make up the rest of the album. Various guitars, flutes, percussion instruments, horns, and far-reaching sounds blend with several different languages. The whole album is a success; so it is nothing new for Eccodek. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Blitz The Ambassador's 'Afropolitan Dreams'

Blitz The Ambassador
Afropolitan Dreams
Embassy Mvmt

The Ghanaian-born rapper based in New York, Blitz The Ambassador, combines Afro-pop melodies, rap vocals, and refreshing Afro-soul sound that echoes beats of decades ago. The vocal king incorporates a few guest musicians fill in already great tracks. For example, Angelique Kidjo, Nneka, Sarkodie, Marcelo D2, Seun Kuti, Amma Whatt, and many other artists are represented. The album is a continuation of the journey to America with all of the trials and tribulations that accompany the struggle to establish oneself in a new land. The twelve tracks are unique, easy to understand, and incorporate a plethora of African, American, and rap fusion styles. The melodies and rhythms are very catchy, poignant, and meaningful. The music is more than rap or hip hop, since the melodies are somewhat drawn out, which provides a more Afro-pop, funk, and soul concoction. Check out Afropolitan Dreams while you can. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Alex Garcia's Afromantra's 'This Side Of Mestizaje'

Alex Garcia's Afromantra
This Side Of Mestizaje
Afromantra Records

Alex Garcia is Chilean-born, influenced by Cuban and Peruvian melodies, and now based in New York, where he has mastered Latin jazz, percussion, and world fusion with his latest release, This Side Of Metizaje. The title of the album connotes mixed ancestry of the Spanish variety, which is quite evident throughout the tracks. The tracks are wholly instrumental without any vocal accompaniment. The music is steeped in jazz and jam session overtones with punchy percussion and horns eloquently frolicking along-side the fluid bass, piano, and keys. The music is relatively laid-back with some poignant melodies and rhythms that get the heart racing and the feet moving. Alex, a prodigy on drums, enlists the help of soprano sax-man, Ole Mathisen, Fender Rhodes maestro, Mick Eckroth, and electric bass connoisseur, Ariel De La Portilla. The entire group forms a cohesive unit of musical deliciousness that never gets old. Discover it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Ensemble Tirana's 'The Bridge That Links Time'

Ensemble Tirana
The Bridge That Links Time
Frea Records

The polyphonic a capella group, Ensemble Tirana, hails from Albania, but their influence is deeply rooted in Balkan life and society. The new album contains over one hour of music over eighteen tracks. The songs are mostly instrumental with only minor accompaniment on flute and cifteli stringed instrument. Founded in 1994, the group contains tenor, baritone, and bass-baritone vocal arrangements. The six-member group is comprised of Nazo Celaj, Hyso Xhaferaj, Dionis Delia, Edmond Lila, Luan Sula, and Ervin Kastrati. The music incorporates historical chants from the seventeenth century. Anyone familiar with polyphonic singing will find enjoyment in the vocal tracks, while others will be yearning for more instrumental prowess. However, the vocals are great and present a great historical story for a modern era. At any rate, Ensemble Tirana inspires all to take a listen. Ensemble Tirana is the bridge that links the past with the present. ~ Matthew Forss