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Spin the Globe reviews, November 2003

Bahia Music / Wizart

Kiss Erzsi Music easily rates as one of my favorite musical discoveries of late. The Hungarian band combines an irresistable kaleidoscope of musical styles, topped sparkling vocals. Led by actor/singer Erzsi Kiss, the group has a remarkable knack for engaging rhythms, from the Middle-Eastern flavor of the title track, to the hard-driving indie-rock sound of "Arö" to the funky syncopated vocals of "Án Ájrere."

Deladela is full of delightful surprises and genre-defying sounds. "Uuu," for example, begins with base and spare drums under a hypnotic vocal line that bears the potential of jazz, or maybe punk.. Then the full instrumentation kicks in with vocal harmonies, then some wild jazz drumming and a rap (or is it scatting?) - and you're left thinking: "How wonderful! What the heck is it?" The puzzled wonderment continues into the next track, "Okatummate" an a capella delight of multitracked female voices. And a complete change of pace comes with "Francia," a soft chanson with smooth French vocals, guitar and bass.

"The unifying force in our music," Erzsi Kiss said in a recent interview, "is language - a language which actually has no real meaning. It's difficult to explain what this is - I'd call it a sort of musical language, because it's born out of the laws that govern music, which can't be ignored."

Deladela concludes with one last flavor in the song "Reggae," featuring a Jamaican beat but the same powerful, reedy, vocal harmonies. Kiss Erzsi Music will appeal to listeners across musical boundaries - any open-minded, adventurous music lover will return to this magical CD again and again. If, indeed, it ever leaves your CD player at all.

Kiss Erzsi Music is Erzsi Kiss (vocals), Gabi Kenderesi (vocals), Anna Szandtner (vocals), Csaba Hajnóczy (guitar), Arpád Vajdovich (guitar, bass guitar) and Hunor G. Szabó (drums). Five full songs are available for download at www.wizart.hu, including two songs from the 12-track CD and three live tracks: "Uuu," "Tundirin," and "Wattama Du."

Not Unlike: Ekova, Varttina, Ani DiFranco, early No Doubt

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Naxos World

Steindór Andersen is an Icelandic fisherman who happens to sing. Okay, he's also the greatest modern singer and promoter of Rímur, a traditional chanting style with its roots in the Viking age. And he's becoming better known through his collaboration and touring with Sigur Rós. This 18-track CD features selections from several Rímur cycles, since in the traditional form a single cycle could last for hours.

Recorded in various non-studio locations, Andersen's rich voice slowly traces the history and culture of Iceland. The sound quality is excellent, though the acoustical changes of different locations can be a bit distracting, ranging from warmly intimate to resonantly distant. Except for the few listeners who understand Icelandic, the slow pace and vocal timber may remind you of the otherworldliness of Gregorian chants, except that Andersen sings mostly solo a capella. The few exceptions include "Hausti∂ Nálgast," on which his voice is beautifully matched by a didgeridoo drone. "Göngu-Hrólfsrímur" and "Númarímur II" feature some kind of lute or harp, though I'll be darned if I can find any mention of the instruments in the liner notes. The last exception is "Rammislagur," the only song with vocal harmony. Rímur is a CD of sparse, deep-rooted beauty.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Intentcity Records

"There are," a Web site informs us, "basically three types of Buddhist music. 1) folk music, found in the daily lives of people 2) art music which is music cultivated especially by professional minstrels, and 3) sacred chant and instrumental music of liturgy and other rites." Unless you've been on a long meditational retreat, however, you'll have noticed that the Buddha seems to be spending a lot of time producing dance/trance tunes. Allmusic.com lists no fewer that 25 Buddha-titled CDs, of which Buddha Café is the latest. The lack of any particular connection to Buddhism aside, this isn't a bad album. Combining spoken word and female vocals (in English and, one might guess, Hindi) over electronic beats, the CD has a nice downbeat ambiance and flows well through tracks from artists including Ikarus, Omar Faruk Tekbelik, Waterbone, Govinda, and others. The CD isn't exactly rich on liner notes or credits; for those, you'll have to seek out the original CDs from which these tracks were pulled. While it won't appeal to world/ethnic music purists, Buddha Café could put a delightful chillout soundtrack behind your next party.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media


A collaboration between singer/pianist Jozy Fever and guitarist/producer Dmitri Soukonov, Kin Za Za produces breathy trance-pop that has been compared to Enya and Sarah McLachlan. Appealing more to newage and chillout fans than folk or world music aficionados, Number One in Shambala slides through 12 slow tracks with Jozy's light, precise vocals over a blend of acoustic guitar, drums, and electronics. (The reviewed CD had a bonus DVD with 10 music videos.) The lyrics don't seem particularly inspired if you stop to listen (an example from the song "Elation": "Forget all your troubles/For ever and ever/Things only get better/Worry no longer/...Take a break from your silence/And run away") but the Canadian duo's emphasis is on emotion and atmospherics. Kin Za Za makes music to be felt, rather than listened to, and on that level the CD excels.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Gael Linn, www.valley-entertainment.com

Hailing from the Aran Islands off the wild west coast of Galway, Ragús (the name is an Arans word for "urge" or "desire") started as a group playing traditional Irish music. Its success--aided, no doubt by Riverdance and other such endeavors--has blossomed into multiple touring music and dance troupes, and now their first CD. An Seo features a variety of styles from a sean nos version of Burns' "Green Grow The Rushes" to the speedy fiddling of "The Otters Holt/Wise Maid/Miss McClouds" to the percussive live dance number "Greg's Rhythm." The latter leaves the listener begging for the visual component, though overall the CD stands well without the stage show, and provides a nice cross-section of traditional Irish music. The fine ensemble of musicians, several of them Riverdance veterans, includes Fergal O'Murchu (vocals and button accordion), Gary Roche (pipes and whistles) and Aileen O'Conner (vocals).

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Global Village Music

"Orchestra" can mean very different things in different parts of the world. In this Egyptian configuration, the orchestra consists of a dozen or so string, reed, and percussion instruments. Recorded in 1973 by Albert Rashid and now made available by his son Raymond Rashid and Michael Schlesinger of Global Village, the songs are mostly in the sama'i genre, a popular form of light, melodic music that achieved popularity in the 1920s. Strings weave an exotic melodic tapestry as tar and dumbek keep the unusual (to Western ears) rhythms. The pace changes with the final piece, "Taqasim Nay," a flute improvisation against a background a cello drone. The small-type liner notes pack an astounding amount of information about history, music theory, and the composers. Though short (just over 36 minutes), this CD is a great introduction to the Egyptian orchestra.

Not Unlike: Simon Shaheen, Hossam Ramzy

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

Maison de Soul Records,
P. O. Drawer 10 Dept. SC, Villa Platte, LA 70586, (800) 738-8668

Sultry vocals, driving bass lines, songs about bikers...yes, this really is zydeco! Singer, songwriter, squeezebox player Rosie Ledet heats it up on her latest offering Now's the Time. Ledet (born Mary Roszela Bellard) grew up on rock & roll, the influence of which is clear in the thick fuzzy guitar solos on several songs. And a little reggae influence creeps into the beat of "Paradise." All originals (except for her cover of Leo Sayer's "More Than I Can Say"), Ledet's songs stick to the zydeco staples: dancing, parties, and romance, sweet and sour. "Zydeco Yeah" opens the CD with an energetic tribute to the genre in English and French. "Do That Thing" sizzles with sexuality, propelled by a funky bass line. Though the pace of the CD never really slows, "Biker Boys" and "Touch to Feel" give Ledet more space to stretch vocally, showing that she's really a great soul singer who happens to carry an accordion.

©2003 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

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