Wednesday, July 30, 2014

CD Review: Erin And Her Cello's 'Petits Bisous'

Erin And Her Cello
Petits Bisous

Erin And Her Cello is a quirky, catchy, and classically-trained music group headed by Erin Hall. Erin is joined by others on piano, sax, keyboards, drums, harpsichord, vibraphone, melodica, glockenspiel, and clapping on her latest release translated as "little kisses." The poignant melody of "The Doctor" is something straight out of the 1950's or 60's. The vocals are pop-focused and somewhat reminiscent of the Dala Girls. The content is rather comical and playful at the same time. The music is pop-oriented, but it contains a variety of instruments that give it a worldly-tone that is very endearing. The sweet melodies and vocals are right at home with the New York-based musician's French cafe music style. The metropolitan cellist combines a heady mix of tunes that only last about thirty-six minutes long. At any rate, the music is top notch and very welcoming. Buy it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Afro Bop Alliance's 'Angel Eyes'

Afro Bop Alliance
Angel Eyes

The Afro Bop Alliance is a Washington, DC-area band that showcases a wide-range of Latin jazz, salsa, bossa nova, and South American-inspired tunes on their latest release, Angel Eyes. The seductive album cover art draws in listeners by way of visual cues, but the visual quickly leads to the aural, as the sounds emanate from the album with such vivacity. The tracks are littered with infectious tunes and instruments, including the steel pan, bass, piano, drums, congas, sax, trumpet, cello, clarinet, and violin. The group enlists numerous jazz lines and Latin fusions that take on a lively life of their own. There are eleven tunes, but only two tracks include vocals: "Nature Boy" and "Minor Details." The Afro-Cuban elements are evident throughout. However, anyone with an interest in classic, Latin jazz music will love Afro Bop Alliance's Angel Eyes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Mozambique'

Various Artists
Wired For Sound

The compilation of musicians from Mozambique is a great release that showcases various musical styles that are both contemporary and infectious. The pop connotations are evident, but there is also a good degree of blues, soukous, zouk, and Afro-pop arrangements and influences. Over a dozen fresh artists contribute to this new release funded by the Open Society Initiative for Southern Africa (OSISA). You will hear Million Isaac Junior, Marcelino Banda Mpombeza, Alfredo, Harry Potter (yes, a band), Minesterio Evanjelico De Mbonje, Chaisoni Bicaus Bandeira, Atija, and many others. The music incorporates Congolese rhythms, Portuguese influences, and Mozambique melodies that are very vibrant and memorable. Seventeen different tracks represent a hearty mix of easy listening and toe-tapping responses. Nothing is a miss here. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, July 28, 2014

CD Review: Tapebenders' 'Chasing Ghosts'

Chasing Ghosts

The Milwaukee-based psychedelic rock group, Tapebenders (formerly Elusive Parallelograms), releases an anthology of music previously released on earlier LPs and EPs. The rock music contains a bit of electronica that includes showers of metallic sparks and dreamy sequences that are varied and very deliberate. The concise playing style brings to life the progressive pop side of the music without venturing too far away from psychedelic or rock genres. The gritty "60 MPH" is an instrumental rock gem with vocals resembling Blink 182 and rock riffs not too far away from a punk vein. "Nuclear Man" is another fine electronic tune with big guitars, drums, and keyboards with vocals that are playful and adventurous. The sounds reverberate with spacey electronics and spacious licks. "Absolution" is a rock anthem with fuzzy guitars and psychedelic noises that include a bit of progressive and experimental music that is jingly, memorable, and cinematic. The entire thirteen-track release provides a great picture of what Tapebenders can do. Think of Fractal Cat meets Blink 182 with The Devlins close behind. 5 Stars (out of 5) ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 22, 2014

CD Review: Susan Cattaneo's 'Haunted Heart'

Susan Cattaneo
Haunted Heart
Jersey Girl Music

With ties to Massachusetts, New Jersey, and Nashville, Susan Cattaneo is at home with the pop-country constructions of melody and rhythm on her latest release, Haunted Heart. Susan's vocals are reminiscent of Sheryl Crow and Shawn Colvin. The singer-songwriter vein is eloquently captured on many of the tunes, including "Lies Between Lovers," "Abide," "Haunted Heart," "John Brown," "Ingenue," and many others. The sweet vocals and drifting melody of "Haunted Heart" is relatively slow, jazzy, and folksy. The song evokes a quieter time of reflection and relaxing set in a 60's or 70's context. "Worth The Whiskey" opens with a steely guitar medley and thick, groovy sound structure that brings out the bluesy, Southern elements of her music. "Done Better" is a piano tune with a ballad-esque set-up and delivery. The drum, bass, and guitar mix is rather folksy overall. The power of lyrics that tell stories and great music to match are very difficult to accomplish, but Susan Cattaneo has no problems creating a fulfilling result. Fifteen tracks round out the album. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

CD Review: Nadaka & Gopika's 'Surya'

Nadaka & Gopika
Raga Mantra

Nadaka & Gopika's newest release, Surya, contains beautiful, contemplative, and aural-friendly vedic mantras with the light and energy of the sun the primary focus here. The instrumental tunes contain some of Gopika's Indian vocals, but Nadaka's raga guitar, guitar synth, and added vocals add an avant-garde and experimental element to the mix. The duo are joined by tabla, violin, percussion, and sampling on most of the tracks. There is a transcendental quality to the sound that creates a sense of deeper calm and new age spiritualism. The South Asian and Sanskirt-soaked album is meditative enough to be wanted by yoga fanatics and world fusion fans everywhere. There are eight total tracks that range from four to nine minutes in length. There are some electronic subtleties that remind us of the modern era; but nothing is too overdone or overt here. Experience inner and outer light with Surya. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Quraishi's 'Mountain Melodies'

Mountain Melodies
Evergreene Music

Quraishi is a New York City-based and Afghan-born rubab player with a penchant for reviving traditional Afghan music with a classical and courtly edge. The entire album is instrumental and contains a minimal mix of traditional instruments comprised of rubab, tabla, and dhol. There is a classical, Hindustani connection with Afghan music and that is evident throughout the album. There are only nine tracks, but the scintillating strings, thumping dhol and tabla, and overall melodies are worthy of repeated listens. The music does not contain electronic effects or guitars. Essentially, this is true Afghan folk music that celebrates Afghanistan's national instrument as the album's chief sound. Fans of traditional Afghan music will love its nostalgic simplicity. Furthermore, anyone with an interest in the music of Central Asia will appreciate the beautiful and serene musical qualities. Great job. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, July 3, 2014

CD Review: Leticia Rodriguez Garza's 'Saguita Al Bate'

Leticia Rodriguez Garza
Saguita Al Bate

Growing up in Texas, one is never too far away from the energetic, pulsating, and danceable sounds of Latin America. Saguita Al Bate is a rollicking, four-track album of cumbia, salsa, Latin, jazz, Caribbean, and Afro-Latin elements with some tunes coming from a previous release, La Americana. The lively percussion, driving horns, punchy bass, and rootsy accordion on a few tracks makes the music come alive with a classic vein running throughout the album. The music of Latin America is timeless when jazzy piano, heavy percussion, and soulful vocals are involved. This is especially true on Saguita Al Bate. The music is seemingly out of the 1950's, but it is equally at home in today's era. Anyone with an interest in classic Latin American music will love Leticia Rodriguez Garza. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, July 2, 2014

CD Review: Zebrina's 'Hamidbar Medaber'

Hamidbar Medaber

A Canadian jazz pianist, Jonathan Feldman, is the brainchild behind Zebrina, which is a jazz-centered group with jam band qualities and Klezmer roots. Instead of pulsating brass and horns, Zebrina utilizes some keyboard effects and percussion to astound listeners. The instrumental tunes are edgy, fluid, and diverse. The flowing clarinet, swishy percussion, and avant-garde folk-rock stylings represent a slight new age nod that is very satisfying. There is a bit of down-tempo, funk, roots, and smooth jazz going around here. Eight catchy grooves round out the album in a fun and entertaining manner. All of the tracks are five to eight minutes long, which allows for plenty of variation that doesn't get boring. The electric guitar adds a modern spark to the some of the songs. Overall, Zebrina awakens the Jewish spirit with great jazz lines and contemporary grooves with a slight Klezmer influence. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jalilah's Raks Sharki's 'Stagecuts'

Jalilah's Raks Sharki

Jalilah's Raks Sharki is part of an oriental dance series in sixteen tracks or 'stagecuts', which highlight the best dance form influenced by Egypt, Lebanon, and Turkey. The instrumental tracks are orchestral, full of percussion, and loads of danceable rhythms in every tempo imaginable. The group is spearheaded by Jalilah (AKA Lorraine Zamora Chamas), Mokhtar Al-Said, Hossam Shaker, and Ihsan Al-Mounzer. There are doumbek solos and tabla showcases, which will blow you away. The incredible musicianship is heartily apparent after the first few sounds on the first track. The entire project contains tracks pulled from six previous albums. Stagecuts does not have lengthy dance tracks, which were something rather commonplace years ago. Instead, the tracks are mostly four to five minutes long. Anyone interested in bellydance, Middle Eastern and African percussion, and Hossam Ramzy will love Stagecuts. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, July 1, 2014

CD Review: The Bombay Royale's 'The Island Of Dr. Electrico'

The Bombay Royale
The Island Of Dr. Electrico
HopeStreet Recordings

Bollywood surf, spy, funk, disco, and dance music from a Melbourne, Australia group? The unlikely combination is nothing to get upset about, since everything works well here. The entire album is around forty-five minutes in length, but the sounds seem to live on forever. The orchestrations are reminiscent of a spy-thriller film soundtrack that could be heard in almost any country, but the Bollywood and spaghetti-Western sounds are most pervasive. The psychedelic sounds and surfadelic connotations are timeless and catchy. Every song on the album is worth repeating over and over. The infusions of punchy horns, suspenseful orchestrations, gritty funk, and South Asian vocalizations are simply too much to take in, because they are so appropriate and memorable. The Island Of Dr. Electrico is one of the best world music albums of the year. Discover it today. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Alsarah and The Nubatones' 'Silt'

Alsarah and The Nubatones
Wonderwheel Recordings

Born in Sudan, Alsarah, has made Yemen and the United States of America home. Currently residing in Brooklyn, NY, Alsarah and her Nubatones bring to life a nostalgic East African pop with Middle Eastern and Arabic percussion and dance effects. The music is steeped in traditional oud and percussion, but it also includes a contemporary repertoire of bass, keyboards, assorted percussion, and additional vocals. The swirling rhythms and sounds of "Nuba Noutou" are especially entrancing with great vocals and a 'nubian' beat. There are eleven tracks that infuse a sense of exotica (at least from a Western point of view), which encapsulates the ethnomusicological work Alsarah has completed. No, the music is not convoluted or highly-contrived; instead, Alsarah and The Nubatones let go and create contemplative, danceable, and energetic works based on similar modes that have been played for hundreds of years. Hear the sounds of East Africa in a new light with Alsarah and her Nubatones as your guide. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Monica Giraldo's 'Que Venga La Vida'

Monica Giraldo
Que Venga La Vida
Polen Records

Colombia's Monica Giraldo is a Latin-Grammy-nominated musician that brings us alt-pop and roots music with a lot less percussion than one would expect from vibrant areas of Central America. Monica's vocal and instrumental set-up is not too unlike New York's Leona Naess. However, the music still contains some Latin American character with a little alt-folk and roots comparisons that shine very well amid the mix. The ten tracks are poignant, delicate, and heartfelt. This is easy listening and contemporary pop constructions that are quite mature and pleasant. This may be based on contemporary Colombian pop, but Monica seems to take it one step further: into a world of roots, alt-folk, and a magical third genre. The music is perfect for anyone into Colombian pop, folk, and roots. Traditionalists into heavy percussion should look elsewhere to satisfied your needs. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Zvuloon Dub System's 'Anbessa Dub'

Zvuloon Dub System
Anbessa Dub

The Tel-Aviv-based reggae/Ethiopian jazz group, Zvuloon Dub System, seamlessly merges two unique musical styles together to form a danceable and very likable beat. The group infuses reggae beats on several tracks with a little Amharic to mix it up just a little bit. Roots reggae, jazz, and East African soul explains what is going on here. The moving beats and diverse vocals attract equally-great instrumental portions that are like little morsels of delicious candy. There are traditional reggae instruments, including the piano, organ, guitars, bass, drums, sax, trumpet, and trombone, along with Ethiopian krar (a plucked harp) and a masinko (a type of small fiddle). Mahmoud Ahmed is a featured and well-known performer here, but Zemene Melesse, Yaacov Lilay, and Shay Sattaman Jacovi add vocals, too. Otherwise, Gili Yalo is the lead vocalist. The East African, Middle Eastern, and Caribbean influences are evident and pervasive, but everything is used in moderation. Anyone seeking reggae beats via Israel, Ethiopia, and beyond will have fun with Anbessa Dub. ~ Matthew Forss