The demands of writing, editing, translating and syndicating hardware reviews plus covering editorials, news posts and site maintenance leave me no more time to write the type of full-length music reviews I used to write when 6moons wasn't as busy yet. Even so, readers who share my love of what generally goes by world music though that's a pretty poor term—does everything else come from outer space—keep asking for a least miniature capsule mentions so they can accompany me on my field trips into worthwhile news finds or rediscoveries in my library.


Here I must quality 'new' with 'new to me'. Just because I discover something now doesn't imply it was recently released. It could be older stuff. That's the magic of music. The good stuff is timeless. Heck, aficionados of classical music keep listening to compositions which are a few centuries old. Time and timing aren't of the essence. Selectivity is.


Professional music reviews tend to educate their readers with things like genre history, styles, key artists and core recordings which one ought to know of in any given sector. This page isn't that. All that this is are mini mentions of music I happen to have on rotation on any given month. Think of it as sneak views into somebody else's playlists - ours in this case (M&H are Marja & Henk).
For music coverage of 55 albums from June 2013 - September 2013, click on the album cover at left.
For music coverage of 53 albums from October 2013 - January 2014, click on the album cover at left.
For music coverage of 45 albums from February to December 2014, click on the album cover at left.
 
Razon de Son is the first solo album by former Son de la Frontera lead guitarist Raúl Rodriguez who also is a producer and anthropologist. Here he resets the clock of Flamenco's history even farther into the past to inspect its North-African roots which informed early Flamenco via the Andalusian sea ports of Seville and Cadiz; and its eventual reach into Latin-American colonies like Cuba and Peru to develop rhythms like the Cañas, Indian Fandangos, Peteneras, Sonerias and Punto Flamenco. This combines Raúl's vocals with his trademark Cuban tres guitar which was gifted to him by his mother Martirio, a famous singer who'd performed with Compay Segundo in Havana. Raúl single-handedly introduced the unique bright timbre of this Latin guitar to Flamenco and plays it by mixing styles of son cubano and Flamenco toque. Add Marios Mas on regular guitar, Guillem Aguilar on bass and Aleix Tobias and Pablo Martin Jones on richly layered percussion and you've got an exotically flavoured brew with echoes of Africa burning through in the tribal rhythms. Like on his prior work with Son de la Frontera, the overall spirit is dark and raw rather than shiny and polished to mark another true return to compelling ethnic roots music, albeit of a sort we've not heard quite like this before.
If you thought Norwegian female vocals stopped at Kari Bremnes, you might want to give Lux by Unni Løvlid a spin. With the very outside bass of Håkon Thelin providing strangely moody soundscapes for her voice, Løvlid's broad expressive range from whispers to assured Nordic power and a vocabulary which stretches from Schoenberg to folk song make for a quite otherworldly journey. Whilst a particular melody might suggest an Irish plain song, Håkon's bass will run scratchy arpeggios up into the flageolet beneath and around it to alter that mood into something indefinably suspended between light and darkness. This weirdly unmoored state of suspension is further abetted by the absence of regular beat keepers. There's no percussion nor is the bass used in any such fashion. Instead the bass whines, creaks, rattles, smears, squeaks, rings and spins like an off-tune Tibetan singing bowl or howling wind whilst stately vocals might bid farewell to a band of Vikings disappearing in the grey fogs. Despite its bright name, Lux is filled with the tension and contrast which only come when darkness is equally present. Think ghostly, eerie, other and prepare to be transported.
Tárkány Müvek are a Hungarian folk band led by cymbalom player Bálint Tárkány-Kovács who perform at the intersection of folk and advanced jazz. Ószi Vázlatok is a live recording which covers repertoire from their two prior albums plus covers like John Coltrane's "Naima". Old-timer Mihály Dresch on saxophone and shepherd's flutes insures that the general vibe keeps pointing at the more abstract Jazz aspect. In the context of the unusual instrumentation and foreign lyrics, this makes for significant perceptional frisson - that Jazz should have spread this far and in turn been informed by Eastern European sensibilities. If you mean to take a walk on the wild side of Manhattan's Jazz Avenue, Ószi Vázlatok makes for a good excuse.
The two-stringed erhu fiddle is a classical Chinese instrument of which an entire solo album would likely be too boring for Western audiences. Tangh-Suan Lo's Taiwan Erhu concert recording thus limits the traditional solo or minimally accompanied pieces to five before the specially formed 21st Century Taiwanese Chamber Ensemble adds forces and timbres with the yuangqin hammered dulcimer, sheng mouth organ plus cello and accordion from France. That's when the next ten cuts take unexpected detours. Those lead "Pink Clouds Chasing The Moon" to turn into a slow Parisian musette vals. "El Choclo" becomes a tango for erhu, "Gymnopedie N°.1" nods at the clever French minimalist Satie, "Duke's Place - C Jam Blues" becomes a curious Jazz limp, "Gypsy Promenade" returns us to the musette vals, "Klezmer Party" has the accordion suggest some Balkan elements and "Erhu-Cello Dialogue" delivers what it promises. What on paper might have read like nothing but an ill-fated project that was pitched in two minutes over a hurried lunch turns out to be a very elegant example of modern chamber music. It plants the refined stately timbre of the Chinese erhu into new patches of soil to blossom for us here in the West. That's the real meaning of crossover!
Renaud Garcia-Fons, master of the virtuoso five-string upright bass, and Derya Türkan, maestro of the Persian spiked fiddle called kemanche, are the protagonists for Silk Moon on which the two illustrious musicians reunite who'd already worked together on Türkan's 2006 Minstrel's Era with Uğur Işık on cello and oud. For some Silk Moon tracks, the French bassist contributes the type of overdubbed loops that turn his bass into percussion and which also featured on his Marcevol Concert Solo disc. Gentle palmas and massive frame drums underpin others. But in general, Silk Moon consists of pure duets between two stringed instruments played con arco or plucked. Unlike the haphazard meets Kavi Alexander of Water Lily Records pursued in the past by inviting two master instrumentalists to jam ad hoc in a church whilst recording their impromptu musical (mis)dialogue, all fourteen cuts of this album were clearly composed through in advance to end in carefully crafted arrangements. By having two very mature musicians join forces, neither of whom have anything left to prove, the focus is on lyricism, subtlety and saying more with less.
Bir Nefes Hayat by Cengiz Onural is an exceptionally idyllic collection of Turkish instrumentals in the spirit of Omar Faruk Tekbilek's work with Brian Keane or Iz by Fahir Atakoglu. Solo instruments like the duduk, klarnet, cello, accordeon, kemanche, ney, qanun and violin appear in chamber-music settings that put melody first and mostly consist of guitar and string accompaniment but also feature the occasional backup chorus, big drums and tasteful synth ambiance. Simple but unapologetically pretty music from the modern Ottoman Empire that you'll end up spinning a lot just because...
Jyotsna Srikanth's Call of Bangalore showcases the violin in a classical Indian trio setting with mridangam and kanjira. She plays this instrument which was introduced to the Indian subcontinent by the British in the typical sitting style, scroll resting on her knee. Her idiom is Southern Karnatic based on 72 ragas or musical scales. But she's also a qualified doctor with a medical degree, a violin teacher, curator for the London International Arts Festival, frequent contributor to Bollywood soundtracks and involved in many fusion projects like Bangalore Dreams which joins her with Indian and Western rhythm sections, Chris Haigh on violin and Shanti Paul Jayasinha on trumpet. Her multi-tasking interests translate into exceptional stylistic fluidity which also informs her playing when she focuses on her classical Indian core training as she does with this album. Being released on Riverboat Records/World Music Network means far better recording quality than is sadly typical for many Indian music productions. And unlike the electrified violin of L. Subramaniam, Jyotsna plays hers unplugged to let us enjoy the authentic timbre of her chosen instrument. A gem for lovers of Southern Indian music.
A violin of a very different sort is Anna Phoebe's on Between the Shadow and the Soul. Coming from the prog-rock Trans-Siberian Orchestra and having played with Jethro Tull and Roxy Music, she's as comfortable with full-on electrified onslaught as she is with the classicist piano/violin duet form. That's the fusion of global rock on tap here. It culminates in the central 6-minute anthem "A Moment's Deception" which begins with a simple revolving guitar riff, tablas and high-register violin chords. Things crest into the obligatory furious e-guitar solo, fall back into an interlude featuring Phoebe's friend Ian Anderson's flexible flute, pick up momentum with hammered guitar chords, jubilant violin swooping like a hunting falcon and Anderson's overblown flute before dying down. "Embrace" goes fully unplugged for an elegiac embrace of concert grand and violin song with big emotive sheen and a saucy vals interlude which show real expressive scope. Directly following, "Uncrowned" kicks off with aggressively pounding drums and shredding e-guitar chords for maximal contrast ratio. "Inception" uses a drums'n'bass foundation overlaid with tablas against which the violin does slinkily ornamented odd-metered melodic work before the rock elements dominate again. Between thus isn't the usual setting for the violin, showing just how much scope this instrument enjoys outside the classical and Jazz milieus.

The Finzi Mosaique Ensemble are spiritual kinsmen with the French Bratsch formation because they canvas the wider Mediterranean up deep into the Northern Balkans for Roma and related folk repertoire. The Balkan Mediterranean Gipsy title of one album and La Buena Hora of the other say it all. That means violin, oud, accordion, clarinet, sax, bass, hand drums and female vocals. It means elements of Arabo-Andalus Moorish music, various hora and sirba dances, ornamental Turkish taksim interludes, Macedonian wedding echoes of Ivo Papasov and Yuri Yunakov, Taraf de Haïdouks mayhem, slinky belly dance rhythms and visions of traveler wagons and juergas around night fires.