Friday, December 30, 2011

CD Review: The Brothers Goldman's 'fOnkOlOgy'

The Brothers Goldman
Arkansas Street Records

The funky beats of The Brothers Goldman incorporate a blend of jazzy, avant-garde, and improvisational tunes with a strong, African sound. The nostalgic tracks harken back to the 1970s. Moreover, the acid-jazz elements and instrumental sets are highly-danceable and groove-oriented with loads of funk and fun for the whole family. The line-up includes Bill Philippe on guitar and vocals; Joe O'Loughlin on drums; Tim Wagar on bass; Wil Blades on Hammod B-3; Joe Cohen on sax; Joel Berhman and Will Magid on trumpet. The energetic grooves are dripping with funky elements that go right to the soul upon the first listen. A little funk-rock presence and we have an all-out dance party on our hands. Best enjoyed with fifty friends; but inebriation is optional. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Various Artists 'Oka! Soundtrack'

Various Artists
Oka! Soundtrack
Oka Productions

The music of the Bayaka Pygmies in the Central African Republic is showcased on this wonderful compilation from the Oka! film to be released later in 2012. The film is about a true story of an American ethnomusicologist, Louis Sarno, that ignores a life-threatening disease for three decades and decides to live among the Bayaka Pygmies. This album contains twenty-six compositions (some from previously-released albums) with a variety of natural instruments, choral singers, lively percussion, and environmental noises and sounds from the forest region. The result is a magnificent look into the music of Bayaka Pygmies and their music. Some of the music is quite lively and contains soukous-type rhythms. Anyone with an interest in Central African music, as well as Bayaka researchers, will love the new recording. The Bayaka Pygmies have been over-looked for far too long. Buy it today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Parker Ainsworth's 'Leave On The Lights'

Parker Ainsworth
Leave On The Lights

The second release by Parker Ainsworth, Leave On The Lights, is a stellar seven-track album of personal songs that echo with love and life with each glistening, guitar-note. Parker's vocals seem to be a mix of James Blunt and Five For Fighting. Parker's vocals and guitar are backed by piano, electronic embellishments, bass, cello, accordion, dobro, pedal steel, percussion, and backup vocals by Chaska Potter and Mona Tavokoli. The bluesy, "April Full Moon," is a perfect example of Parker's vocals and instrumentation come together. The more spacious, "Time To Let Go," provides a palette of guitar and electronic splendor that never ceases to amaze the listener. "The Projectionist" is a short, spoken word rambling by Parker about a theater projectionist. The spoken word is supported by some guitar accompaniment. "The Forgiver" is a slightly, western or country-tinged song that echoes back to the old-time music days, but with Parker's iconic vocals. The seemingly silly-titled, "Favorite Jeans," is a sweet song about a pair of jeans with a folk-roots-backed assortment of instruments. Anyone with an interest in contemporary folk-pop or folk-roots music should throw on their 'favorite jeans' before 'april's full moon' and buy his new album and 'leave on the lights' when listening. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Novalima's 'Karimba'

ESL Music

The contemporary sounds of Lima, Peru come alive with Novalima's latest release, Karimba. The songs are richly textured with spicy nuances of aural colours that amaze all who listen to it. The upbeat rhythms and melodies are interspersed with electronic beats, dub sounds, and Afro-Peruvian leanings that never seem to fade away into an abyss of boredom. Leave your gourd shakers and pan flutes at home, as these guys rip up the terrain with exploding sounds of rhythmic beauty and passion that can only come from Novalima's repertoire. As a third release, Karimba shows no signs of falling into a pattern of dull beats or useless embellishments. The twelve tracks are dance-friendly and sure to send goosbumps up and down your body. Some of the more trance-like grooves cement its reputation as a catchy and addictive mix of soulful tunes from South America. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, December 22, 2011

CD Review: Adam Cross' 'Sirens'


The power-ballad is perfected by Adam Cross and his work on Sirens. The slightly gruff vocals border on a lighter version of Creed mixed with a little U2, David Gray, and The Fray. The power-ballads are driven by spacious guitar solos with a thunderous full sound. The back-up vocals on “Scared To Pieces” breaks up the booming drum-kit and all-encompassing guitar noise. “Time Of Our Lives” and “Burning Castles” are other songs with a big guitar sound and percussion set-up. The lighter “Save Me” contains more pop-centered vocals with a little Pearl Jam-meets-Savage Garden thing going on. The ten songs contain similar arrangements with slower ballads and power-ballads with full guitar sounds and big-time percussion—not to mention—innovative vocals that are difficult to characterize and describe. Though, “Tragedy” is the only song with a fast, dub-step beat throughout the song. Normally, the last song on an album tends to be fairly introspective and uneventful; but this is certainly not the case with Sirens. In fact, the best guitar solo on the album occurs in this song. Overall, Adam produces a very solid release of relationship tunes with smart lyrics and excellent backing percussion and vocals. In short, the power-rock ballads of the 1990’s are back…which is a very, very good thing.

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating:  5 stars (out of 5)

CD Review: Gottfried David Gfrerer's 'Stainless Steel'

Gottfried David Gfrerer
Stainless Steel

Slide guitar music from Austria? As crazy as it sounds; it's the truth. In fact, Gottfried sings in English, too. However, this is not just an instrumentalist's cup of tea, as Gottfried gets into a bluegrass and bluesy groove with accented vocals tricking us into thinking the music is coming straight out of the Appalachians--not the Alps. At any rate, the slower melodies and additional instrumentation from the bass, dobro, sax, keyboards, and drumkit. The nylon string guitar also plays a part. The sweetest and simplest songs are produced on limited instrumentation with killer vocals from Gottfried and guest vocalists. The fancy finger picking and improvisations lead the charge with a memorable result. Gottfried's fiery playing style and intimate vocalizations make Stainless Steel a sure thing for guitar fans. There are no mixed metals--or emotions--here. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: V/A - 'Arctic Paradise: Contemporary Music From Finland 2012'

Various Artists
Arctic Paradise: Contemporary Music From Finland 2012

The Finnish Music Information Centre located in Helsinki releases yet another CD with nearly 90 pages of musical text wholly devoted to the contemporary Finnish music scene. Music articles included by Pirkko Kotirinta, Henna Salo, Merja Hottinen, Riika Hiltunen, and Songlines Magazine editor, Simon Broughton. The articles focus on fusion, indigenous styles, and unconventional musicmaking throughout Finland. Some of the artists included on the compilation are Frigg, Maria Kalaniemi, Suo, Johanna Juhola, Svang, Wimme, Karuna, Nordik Tree, and others. The mix of vocal and instrumental music is refreshing and pleasant for the ears. There is an absence of Varttina on this release, which is somewhat disappointing. Still, the FIMIC puts together a timeless release with loads of informative liner notes and album artwork. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: V/A - 'Arctic Paradise: Contemporary Music From Finland 2010'

Various Artists
Arctic Paradise: Contemporary Music From Finland 2010

The contemporary music of Finland is poignantly captured by researcher, Pirkko Kotirinta. The stylish liner notes weigh in at nearly 80 pages of text. The information contains in-depth analysis of various music genres from Finland, including vocal genres, pelimanni music, accordion/harmonium, kantele, jouhikko, sami, and fusion styles. The music of Tsuumi Sound System, Svang, Sanna Kurki-Suonio, Trepaanit, Lepisto-Lehti, KTU, Frigg, Vilma Timonen Quartet, Alamaailman Vasarat, Ulla, and others are included on the compilation. However, the sounds of Finland's finest performers--Wimme and JPP--are nowhere to be seen. Some of the artists not featured on the tracklist are discussed in the text. The compilation runs the gamut of traditional styles in a contemporary context. However, this is not your pop or rock album. Nevertheless, some rock elements make their way into KTU's "Quiver." Overall, the Finnish Music Information Centre produced a fine example of Finland's music heritage on CD. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: TriBeCaStan's 'New Deli'

New Deli
EverGreene Music

The world fusion tendencies of TriBeCaStan are blatantly evident on all of the tracks. The incorporation of North American guitars, strings, horns, and flutes, are joined with Latin, South American, North African, Central Asian, South Asian, and European sensibilities. The avant-garde and neo-fusion qualities of the mostly instrumental music sound delightful and unique. The funky, fusion, and world-based melodies and instruments create a sound all their own unique to the imagined nation of TriBeCaStan. The rock guitar elements pop up at times, especially on "Freaks For The Festival." Although, the horn-based melodies mimic Gypsy or Balkan influences the most. Furthermore, the music contains a bit of humor, as some of the song titles are called, "Louie's Luau,"Bed Bugs," (One Day) His Axe Fell Into Honey," and "The Brain Surgeon's Wife Serves Lunch." The whimsical album artwork is further evidence supporting the abovementioned fact. Anyone with an interest in world fusion, Gypsy music, avant-garde, and music without borders, the New Deli serves it up really good. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Lampa Ladino's 'En Este Mundo'

Lampa Ladino
En Este Mundo (In This World)
Sketis Music

Russian-based, Lampa Ladino, was started by Grigory Sandomirsky after listening to several records from Sephardic Jews and Ladino musicians several years ago. Ladino is a Sephardic language of Jews from the Iberian Peninsula. The melodies are typically sweeping, classical, jazzy, and also rock-focused (only on one track). For instance, a bit of rock guitar is found on "La Komida La Manyana." However, Judeo-Spanish rhythms win out with a host of songs incorporating Latin or Spanish elements with sorrowful vocals and plaintive piano. Though, a variety of percussion, horns, and string instruments are included throughout. There are classical and jazz elements that are rather spritely--and heavily influenced by Yiddish, Klezmer, and Gypsy song structures. The addition of the guitar, piano, and percussion provides a laidback lounge feel perfect for relaxing after a hard day's work. Fans of avant-garde, jazz, fusion, Sephardic, and Ladino music will be happy to own Lampa Ladino's latest release. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Sousou & Maher Cissoko's 'Stockholm-Dakar'

Sousou & Maher Cissoko

The link between Sweden and Senegal is not too distant, as Sousou & Maher Cisssoko are evidence of its close association--at least from a musical perspective. Stockholm-Dakar is a thrilling album with loads of mbalax drumming and kora melodies with young, fresh vocals in Mandinka, Swedish, Wolof, and English. The liner notes contain English translations. The fast rhythms of the opener, "Nama Nala," as well as "Bamba," "Badia," and "Sunkotou Njiima," keep up the brisk pace. Sousou, a singer and guitarist, hails from Sweden, while Maher, a kora and calabash artist, hails from Senegal. The music is steeped in the griot traditions of West Africa. Anyone with a passion for kora music should acquire the album. Though, anyone familiar with West African music will eat it up. Add a little kora with ngoni and a dash of sabar, and you will have a delicious mix of Senegalese music on your plate. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Jelena Jakubovitch's 'Burn Burn Gypsy Love'

Jelena Jakubovitch
Burn Burn Gypsy Love

Russian-born and Stockholm resident, Jelena Jakubovitch, sets the stage with an amazing set of Russian poetry sung in an emotive and seductive style in the vein of Latin and Gypsy rhythms. Jelena's lyrics in Russian speak volumes--even if you may not be able to understand the words. Notably, the song lyrics are printed in the liner notes in English. Nevertheless, Jelena incorporated Gypsy rhythms from beyond Western Europe--with sounds coming from Middle Eastern, Spanish, Mediterranean, and Scandinavian roots. The classical and jazzy compositions contain splendid rhythms and melodies. Jelena's voice is as strong as the Czech Republic's Vera Bila or Cape Verde's late-Cesaria Evora. At any rate, Burn Burn Gypsy Love is burning with fiery passion and rustic vocals that awaken the heart of the human spirit. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Francois & The Atlas Mountains' 'E Volo Love'

Francois & The Atlas Mountains
E Volo Love (Love and Flight)

The U.K.-based musician, Francois, is originally from France with musical tendencies spanning the Mediterranean, North Africa, and Europe. The giddiness of "Muddy Heart" combines the melodies of Coldplay, Oasis, and The Devlins into a swirling pop sound with a folk-rock base. The laid-back "Edge Of Town" contains a nostalgic presence with jangly sounds and pensive vocals. The upbeat "City Kiss" is a refreshing tune with a catchy chorus and guitar. The accordion raises its head on the opening of "Azrou Tune." The slow ballad features Francois's tender vocals. The grungy "Buried Treasures" echoes back to the Texas band--Toadies. The quieter "Cherchant Des Ponts" is a classic French song with female vocals, strings, and light percussion in the vein of Francois Hardy, Patricia Kaas, or Carla Bruni. Overall, Francois & The Atlas Mountains creates beautiful music with French, African, and other elements that are great to listen to for any occasion. It is easily one of the best albums to ring in the new year. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Baraka's 'Tribute To Muboraksho'

Tribute To Muboraksho
Sketis Music

The late-Pamiri Tajik musician, Muboraksho Mirzoshoyev (1961-2000), was a pioneer of Tajiki popular music--especially in the 1980's and 90's. His music is reinvented by Baraka in a more traditional, classical, and jazz-centered atmosphere. This is not rock or pop. In fact, the music does not seem to possess any Tajiki similarities. The rousing percussion is slightly Middle Eastern, but equally European. The lilting melodies and outstanding vocals by Devika Evsikova and others make this Tribute... album stand-out from the crowd. The Central Asian, Persian, and North African-like percussion and wandering vocals make it apparent that Muboraksho was a composition master. The talents of Evsikova and a host of others on santoor, bass guitar, piano, sax, oud, guitar, flute, darbuka, congo, trumpet, and other fine instruments, provide a rich foundation for the original compositions. The music is ideal for fusion fans and those interested in traditional and classical Middle Eastern or Central Asian music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Asketics' Self-Titled Release

Sketis Music

The Russian art-fusion group, Asketics, dazzles the world with its fine array of subtle, New Age grooves and electronic percussion. The experimental and avant-garde styles are equally represented and show no signs of weakness or impracticality. The music is wholly instrumental and it features the accordion, flugelhorn, bass, keyboards, loops, guitars, trumpet, and assorted percussion. The upbeat clarity of "Strong" is a very good song for the adventurous film scholar, or evening lounge party. The group is equally talented with slower and more pensive compositions, including "Chess," "The French," and the jazzy "g." The songs are intelligently-produced with a sense of nostalgia and futurism all at the same time. The music would be a perfect backdrop for a Starbucks or Barnes and Noble. Overall, the Asketics are 'asketically' pleasing to say the least. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Te Vaka's 'Havili'

Te Vaka
Spirit Of Play Productions

The reknowned South Pacific enclave of Te Vaka continues to musically inspire audiences around the world. This is especially evident on their latest release, Havili. The group's members come from Tokelau, Cook Islands, New Zealand, Tuvalu, and Samoa. The traditional music is blended with upbeat, catchy rhythms that never disappoint. The incredible ocean of sound is extremely captivating. As with "Well...You Lied," on the previous release, Haoloto, Havili features one equally-upbeat, anthemic display of vocal and lyrical prowess on "Lovely World." The songs are in various languages, including Samoan, Tokelauan, Tuvaluan, and English. The traditional log drums and contemporary musical arrangements are a perfect mix. The instrumental percussion segments are very intriguing. Anyone with an interest in South Pacific music and island rhythms should have a lot to sing about with Te Vaka's seventh release. ~ Matthew Forss 

Friday, December 16, 2011

CD Review: KG Omulo's 'Ayah Ye! Moving Train'

KG Omulo
Ayah Ye! Moving Train

Kenyan funk music is recreated in the USA with KG Omulo's cultural roots shining bright above ground. A transplant living in Florida and Rhode Island, KG developed a rock, reggae, and Afro-pop style of music that penetrates the human soul. The eleven socially-charged tracks are back by incredible instrumentation and groovy beats with all the charisma of a 1970's club in Nairobi. The English-language lyrics represent KG's cross-cultural roots without neglecting or paying hommage to his African upbringing. Some of the tracks included a groovy, psyche-down-tempo feel, but soul, jazz, alternative, and pop styles are equally represented. The music is electrified with jazzy horns, punchy guitars, and more lyrical Fela-esque vocals that leave nothing to chance. KG Omulo is moving ahead with Ayah Ye! Moving Train. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Karima Nayt's 'Quoi D'Autre?'

Karima Nayt
Quoi D'Autre? (What Else?)

Algerian-native, Karima Nayt, is a more traditionally-inclined Kabyle singer than her fellow countrywoman, Iness Mezel. The folkish, fluid melodies are interrupted by nomadic guitars and upbeat percussion spanning North Africa's camel routes, France's guitar music, and the vocal melisma of Ofra Haza. Karima's mature voice floats effortlessly across the tracks with a bit of reservation to allow the instruments some room to expand on the vocal patterns. The sincerity in Karima's voice resembles the same clarity as Souad Massi with the sensuality of France's Carla Bruni. At any rate, Karima's songs are heartfelt, classic, and timeless. The thirteen tracks span Karima's eclectic and linguistic ethnic background. Some of the songs are reminiscent of Spanish, South American, or Portuguese-type music with a strong, classical--almost fado-esque--presence. Nevertheless, the music is not a fusion project, but a wonderful journey through the folk music traditions of Algeria's infamous Mediterranean coastline. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Simangavole from Reunion Island

Maloya Manier Fanm
Maron Productions

The music of Reunion Island is relatively underrepresented in today's world music industry. Thankfully, Simangavole is here to change all that. Located east of Madagascar in the Indian Ocean, the island boasts a range of highly-percussive and vocal music traditions. Simangavole sing Creole songs and include a host of traditional percussion instruments with lively, upbeat rhythms. The female vocals border on the voice of Benin's Angelique Kidjo, but with a little less intensity and softer vocal range. At any rate, the chorus of singers and percussion set is vibrant, Sufi-like music with Afro-pop vocal patterns, but with a more limited melodic range. The music is quite similar to the music of kirtan in an Afro-Indian sort of way. The songs are rather short in length, and the whole album comes in under 40 minutes. Still, the music of Reunion is unique, refreshing, and worth the listen. Buy it today. ~ Matthew Forss 

Thursday, December 15, 2011

CD Review: Tanya Tagaq's Live Album 'Anuraaqtug'

Tanya Tagaq
Les Disques Victo

Originally from Cambridge Bay, Nunavut Canada, Tanya Tagaq, has been throat-singing for several years. Tanya's solo form of throat-singing is traditionally accomplished by a pair of women singers. Anuraaqtug is a live album recorded in May 2010 at the Festival International de Musique Actuelle in Victoriaville, Quebec. Tanya is joined by Jean Martin on percussion and trumophone, along with Jesse Zubot on violin. Tanya's primordial vocal stew contains swirling noises that resemble mystical creatures. The instrumental accompaniment often mimics the vocal sounds, which produces scary tones and avant-garde foundations that border on naturalistic experimentation and hauntingly, beautiful Halloween music. The erratic sounds and vivid--though indiscreet vocalizations--make Anuraaqtug a captivating and emotional release. Nearly one of hour of music and five songs signals Tanya's quirkiest and mesmerizing vocal performances. Tanya's latest release will not be everyone's cup of Inuit tea, but she will still amaze a large majority of faithful followers. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Putumayo's 'Brazilian Beat'

Various Artists
Brazilian Beat

The Afro-Brazilian rhythms, samba soul, and steamy, South American sensibilities makes Brazilian Beat a sure-fire hit for a holiday season gift. The funky grooves and fluid vocals are percussion-heavy and psychedelic with loads of hip-swaying melodies and lounge elements. The smooth sounds of the 1970's are certainly evident on most of the tracks. A host of not-so-well-known musicians, including Fino Coletivo, Brazuka Fina, Marcello, Roge, Tamy, Bruna Caram, and others, produce infectious sounds with Latin bossa nova and jazzy horns. The result is astounding, pleasing, and ear-friendly. The mix of sounds and artists are diverse enough to keep the seasoned Brazilian music listener very pre-occupied with plenty of music. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Jeremy Schonfeld's 'Iron & Coal'

Jeremy Schonfeld
Iron & Coal

The talented, NYC-pianist, Jeremy Schonfeld, explores the music of the Holocaust—inspired by his father—with soulful vocals, cinematic strings, rock and pop arrangements, and folksy rhythms.  The opening track, “The Mourner’s Kaddish,” opens with a chorus of voices singing in the Hebrew language.  Jeremy’s voice joins in to make the track sound rich with a theatrical presence and all the joys of a cinematic piano and slightly folk-centered atmosphere.  The bluesy-rock anthem, “Dead Beat Heart,” is a roots-rock masterpiece.  The mix of rock, avant-garde folk, pop, theatrical, filmic, and grunge music styles make Iron & Coal sound like an interesting listening journey nonetheless.  In fact, Iron & Coal contains a variety of styles and vocal differences that are more pertinent for the urban, folk/rock hipster with a knack for slower, soulful music in the vein of Josh Groban or David Foster.  The thirteen tracks are unique enough to warrant replay, because many of the songs contain varying song structures that often sound like two different songs on each track.  In a similar manner, some of the songs seem to lack direction and instrumental cohesiveness. Generally, Jeremy’s songwriting and musicianship are quite genuine, but the result is relatively average.  

Review by Matthew Forss
Rating:  3.5 stars  (out of 5)

CD Review: Caravane


Nick Wilde's journey from England to Morocco occurred after some floods and a fire took out his recording studio in London. Transplanted and immersed in Morocco's musical genres, Nick produced a refreshing, yet moderately urban release of laidback, trip-hop, and lounge jazz music with all the charisma of a Marrakech bazaar. Some of the female vocals resemble Ofra Haza, while the undulating rhythms of "Salla Lah Alayh," awaken the desert spirit in a cataclysmic manner. The dance-laden tunes, world percussion, and electronic embellishments make Caravane stand out among the crowd of techno-wizards with a passion for world music. The result is a relatively unique, accessible, and expansive journey through North Africa and the Middle East with Nick leading the charge by camel-back. Fans of groovy, North African, French, and Middle Eastern music will love the nomadic delights of Caravane. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Dub Caravan's 'Nomadic Fusions'

Dub Caravan
Nomadic Fusions

The project originator of Dub Caravan is Felix Russ Abu. Working as a talented artist, multi-instrumentalist, and composer, Felix has created a global journey soundtrack for today's world. The trippy, dub-centric compositions contain rhythms and melodies from the Far East, Middle East, and Mediterranean. The music contains some vocals, but the instrumental melodies are the real winners here. The undulating dub tracks, drifting percussion, and funky, reggae-inspired backdrops provide a serious listening experience. The music is not overly-done. Importantly, Nomadic Fusions combines the past with the future without resorting to washed-out, techno-trance with no soul. Instead, Dub Caravan knows how to seek out the world's cultures and capture their sounds in true form. Anyone interested in contemporary world dub, electronic music, and groovy sounds from around the world in a modern setting, then look no further. ~ Matthew Forss

Original Balinese Gamelan Ensemble For Sale

This custom Balinese ensemble is made by master instrument makers in Denpasar, Bali Indonesia. The hand-carved mahogany depicting Balinese folklore, include a pair of 10-key bronze gangas and a 10-bowl reyong (trompong). All instruments are tuned and work together as a set to the pelog scale. The trompong is constructed to break down into two halves to facilitate transport. A natural linseed oil was chosen over the more customary red paint and gold leaf, to integrate better with an interior home decor. Shipping crates are included. Asking Price: $15,000.00.

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Friday, December 9, 2011

CD Review: Zulya's 'Tales of Subliming'

Zulya Kamalova
Tales of Subliming
Westpark Music

The Australian-based, Russian singer, Zulya Kamalova, is a proponent of folk music with Tatar and Russian origins. Her songs are steeped in colorful poetry and fairy-tale ambiance with English, Tatar, and Russian lyrics. The instruments are varied, and include marimba, vibraphone, piano, double bass, jews harp, electric guitar, organ, trumpet, cornet, piano accordion, tuba, strings, guitars, and hurdy-gurdy. The folk music contains a bit of an international appeal with European jazz, gypsy, and classic, pop standard tunes. The songs are as transformative as the title of the album suggests. The music is organic, pure, and sublime. Not one song suffers from a weakness. This is perfect for fans of Russian folk music, as well as other types of folk and vocal music with simplistic, yet impressive instrumentation arrangements. Related artists: Patricia Kaas (France) and Sanda (Romania). ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Gor Mkhitarian's 'United Fantasies: Exit Ahead'

Gor Mkhitarian
United Fantasies: Exit Ahead

Armenian rock and pop music is not as popular as other forms of European music around the world, but Gor Mhitarian and his band are going to change that. The guitar, piano, drums, and percussion-based band has drawn comparison to David Gray and the Dave Matthews Band. With a voice like David Gray, Gor Mkhitarian remains uniquely Armenian, but in a rock and pop sort of light. The catchy melodies and fun lyrics are definitely worth a listen to anyone interested in contemporary music from the Caucasus. The music reflects a bit of Russian folk/rock, too. At any rate, Gor Mkhitarian is a fabulous singer and guitarist with an innate ability to create moving and desirable songs that will live on for years. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, December 8, 2011

CD Review: Niwel Tsumbu's 'S'All Vibrations'

Niwel Tsumbu
S'All Vibrations

Congolese-native and Ireland-based, Niwel Tsumbu, creates music with an Afrocentric base that is peppered with rumba, flamenco, and jazz, and seasoned with a dash of soukous. Singing mainly in Lingala, English, and French, Niwel transforms Congolese classics and original compositions on guitar and percussion. The music is generally very energetic and steeped in African musical traditions. Niwel is very accessible to listeners of contemporary African music. Moreover, the rumba elements will excite the Latin and flamenco listeners. As with many soukous songs, the length typically runs 5 or more minutes--and this is exactly the case with Niwel. There are lighter moments that are more reflective, such as "Freezing Cold." Perhaps the fastest song on the album might be "Heartbeat," which is a funky, groove-ladened romp into the Central African abyss. The music is diverse enough to be enjoyed by any African music fan. Niwel is top-notch all the way! ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Lawson Rollins' 'Elevation'

Lawson Rollins
Infinita Records

Innovative guitarist and keyboardist, Lawson Rollins, returns with another astounding album of world fusion and avant-garde jazz on Elevation. Rollins reaches new musical heights that are engaging, warm, and cozy. The album was recorded in Nepal, the U.S., and Iran, which represents some of the ethnic elements inherent in Rollins' work. The slightly jazzy "Daybreak," resembles the laid-back and smooth-jazz tunes popular on The Weather Channel's Local-On-The-8s. Though, Rollins is not a vocalist; Elevation still retains a worldly, vocal base with sparse vocals representing the Middle East and South Asia. Nearly two-dozen musicians are featured alongside Rollins. The result is a New Age-tinged musical journey with elements of jazz, Latin American, and Indian connotations. Some of the songs are inspired by Middle Eastern poetry, while others find inspiration in the sounds of the world. Rollins definitely rises to the occasion with Elevation leading the wave of musical change across the global landscape--transforming everything and everyone in its path. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Taal Tantra Experience's 'Sixth Sense'

The Taal Tantra Experience
Sixth Sense
Ozella Music

The Germany-based group, The Taal Tantra Experience, is a mesmerizing mix of European and Indian musical worlds coming together to form a dizzying, jazzy core with loads of percussion, improvisation, and fast, vocals. The group includes a plethora of performers--most notably--Debashish Bhattacharya on slide guitar, as well as tabla player and vocalist, Tanmoy Bose; saxophonists, Tilmann Dehnhard and Jan von Klewitz; bassist Max Hughes, and a number of percussions, guitarists, and singers. The result is a fluid mix of swirling incense wafting through the bratwurst-tinged kitchens of European homes. At times, the music is slow, repetitive, and sensually appealing. At other times, the music is tantric, jazzy, lounge-centered, and fusion-focused. The angelic vocals, heady percussion, and various arrangements produce a sound unlike that of the Indian sub-continent. However, the music is chiefly Indian, but created in such a way to evoke the improvisational arm of musical ingenuity. Sixth Sense is a rousing album particularly relevant for the world fusion or jazz listener with a knack for Indo-European sensibilities. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Nadishana Trio's Latest Release 'Far & Near'

Nadishana Trio
Far & Near
Sound Microsurgery Department

The Germany-based Nadishana Trio is composed of Nadishana from Siberia; Steve Shehan from the U.S.; and Armin Metz from Germany. The album contains far-reaching sounds, melodies, and rhythms from various cultures. The wholly instrumental album contains a wide variety of wind, percussion, and limited string instruments. The only familiar instrument--for the most part--is the piano. The others include bansuri, kendang, duclar, utar, lekembe, handsonic, tambujira, hadgini, knong wang, and other diverse and obscure instruments seldom heard on any world music album. The contemplative tones are interrupted by some energetic percussion steeped in the traditions of Europe, Middle East, and South Asia. The 'far' and 'near' concept is very appropriate, as many of the instruments originate from several world regions--as well as performers themselves. At any rate, the effort is memorable and unlike anything previously released in ANY genre. The Nadishana Trio are perfect for improvisational, percussion, New Age, and instrumental ethnic music fans with a desire for something above par. Far & Near is as close as one gets to perfection. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Shantalla's 'Turas'

Appel Records

Belgium is a land of Irish and Scottish music, right? Well, Shantalla is a Belgium-based band composed of mostly Irish band members, and some Scottish representation by vocalist, bodhran, and shakers player, Helen Flaherty. Helen is accompanied by Joe Hennon on guitars; Michael Horgan on uilleann pipes, flute, low and high whistles; Gerry Murray on accordion and low and high whistles; Kieran Fahy on fiddle and viola; and Simon Donnelly on guitars and bouzouki. All tunes are arranged by Shantalla and feature traditional melodies and rhythms. However, most of the songs are instrumental and possess a characteristic Celtic and Scottish tone throughout. The mandolin brightens things up on "The Boy and the Princess." In fact, even Mongolian throat-singing appears on "Johnny Doherty's." Overall, Shantalla amazes the listener with jingly, folk tunes and classic vocals. Perfect for fans of Celtic, Scottish, and folk music. Also, Belgian fans will love it. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Triakel's 'Ulrikas minne Visor fran Frostviken'

Ulrikas minne Visor fran Frostviken
Westpark Music

Sweden's most talented and beautiful vocalist, Emma Hardelin, lends her vocals and fiddle-playing on her latest release. Inspired by the music and folk traditions of Frostviken, Sweden, Ulrikkas minne... is a glorious album of folk fiddling with a dash of harmonium, bass, and guest vocals. The folk traditions are similar in style to Triakel's earlier releases; yet are a far cry from the amped-up, Nordic folk-rock of Emma's earlier Garmarna days. However, a new Garmarna release would be welcome in the near future, but that is a discussion for another day. The Swedish fiddling is happy, free, and spritely. Emma's vocals shine, too. Anyone interested in Scandinavian folk fiddling traditions will find solace in Triakel's new fifteen-track release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Al Conti's 2011 Grammy Award Nominated 'Northern Seas'

Al Conti
Northern Seas
Shadowside Music

The powerful mythology of Norse folklore graces the musical foundation of Al Conti's 2011 Grammy Award -nominated release for Best New Age Album. The eleven-track release contains compositions that are mostly instrumental and inspired by various Norse references, including Ragnarok, Valkyria, Baldur, Odin, and Thor. The rather dark connotations of Norse mythology are brightened by Conti's uncanny ability to create spritely rhythms and melodies with the aid of uillean pipes, fiddles, piano, Celtic whistles, acoustic guitars, and assorted percussion. The atmospheric backdrops fill in the melodies and provide an awe-inspiring journey for all who listen. A nice mix of Celtic, New Age, ethnic, and instrumental melodies are more upbeat than anything from Robert Rich or Steve Roach. However, the scintillating music is more in-line with Ireland's Ronan Hardiman. Nevertheless, Conti knows how to create visionary compositions that are entirely unique and refreshing. Conti breathes life into the mythological void of imagination and lore. You can find Al Conti on Facebook, Twitter, Myspace. ~ Matthew Forss