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Comments on Gabrielle Roth’s 20-odd releases range from “organic, whooshing, whirling sounds” to “late-night, funky trance dance” to “authentic ambient tribal music.” It reminds me of the story of the blind men trying to describe an elephant. “Urban shaman” Roth and enough other musicians to tackle a pachyderm– artists who have performed with everyone from Ali Farka Toure and Branford Marsalis to Cirque Du Soleil—create deep rhythmic grooves. Above these floats the voice of Russian pop icon Boris Grebenshikov singing in a made-up language.As with the similar work of Ekova and Shiela Chandra, these vocalizations leave the listener focused on the sound of the words rather than meaning.

Some listeners will be repelled because Bardo’s “ethnic sound” lacks distinct roots; others will love this CD for the very same quality. Reflecting something of each listener, Roth’s band is most aptly named.

©2002 Scott Allan Stevens

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