World Travels (02/18/2000)
Kepa Junkera, Bilbao 00:00h (Alula Records 1999) - Basque accordion player, Kepa Junkera has released an engaging world music set in the double disk, Bilbao 00:00h. Matching Junkera's expressive accordion against collaborations from a variety of world players, the album creates a synthesis of sound.
Now age 34, Junkera developed a unique style of playing the Basque diatonic accordion known as the "trikitixa." Kepa is well known in both the Spanish and international folk scene, and has helped promote Basque culture.
The Basque region includes six provinces - Guituzcoa, Vizcaya, and Alava in Spain and Cheberoa, Basse Navarre, and Soule in France. The Basque speak a language that is different from others in Europe, and have a separate Parliament and government, though no nation of their own.
Bilbao 00:00h is a gold album in Spain, and is named after the city of Bilbao in Northern Spain on the Bay of Biscay. Guest artists on Bilbao 00:00h include Bela Fleck, Carlos Nunez, Paddy Moloney (from the Chieftains), as well as members of Radio Tarifa and La Musgana.
In describing the city of his birth, Kepa says "My city is a door to the sea; it is framed in iron and its streets are bordered by concrete blocks, carved stones and uncovered bricks. It never loses sight of the ocean, because it expects it to surge and seek refuse in the hills. Bilbao is an embrace."
With an intriguing blend of traditional and foreign sounds on songs like "Fali-Faly," "Arin, Quebec" and "Sodade," the new album defies easy description. Fans of International music should look for Bilbao 00:00h.
Faze Action, Moving Cities (Warner/F-111 Records 1999) - Moving Cities marks the American debut release for Englishmen Simon and Robin Lee, who record as Faze Action. With a blend of disco, African, Latin, classical and funk, the brothers meld traditional and trance into fresh dance music.
Brothers Simon and Robin Lee grew up in suburban Amersham. Robin studied music at Goldsmith College (specializing in Asian folk and classical), before taking a job teaching English in Osaka, Japan. Meanwhile, brother Simon continued to collect an increasingly wide variety of records.
The brothers began a long-distance collaboration, with Simon sending his backing tracks to Robin in Japan for orchestral embellishments. It was by this process that Faze Action was born, leading to their 1995 debut single, "Original Disco Motion," followed by 1997's UK album, Plans & Designs, which included the club hit, "Kariba."
Musicians on Moving Cities include Robin Lee on bass, keyboards, and cello, programming by Simon Lee, trumpet by Lee Vivian, trombone by Andrew Watson, violin and viola by Bryan Wright, and guitar help from Tim Hutton, Deran McCarthy, and William Kingswood.
Moving Cities finds the brothers now working face-to-face on a dance collaboration that is complemented by a world atlas of influences on songs such as "Samba" and "In the Trees." Singer Zeke Manyika (of Style Counsel and Orange Juice) lends his African-tinge vocals to four tracks, including "To Love is to Grow," while Vanessa Freeman provides the lush backing vocals on "Heartbeat."
Throughout, Moving Cities flows with a smooth and entrancing tempo. Not too heavy, not too many beats per minute, Faze Action is a smooth slice of electronic dance music.
Gideon Freudmann, Hologram Crackers (Gadfly Records 1999) - Here's an unusual collection. Sixty-two minutes of electric cello music, all performed and overdubbed by Gideon Freudmann. The result is certainly interesting.
I've never heard anything quite like Hologram Crackers. To record the album, Freudmann used digital delay (Digitech Time Machine), loops/phrase sampler (Lexicon JamMan), pitch shifter (Bos PS3), and reverb (Lexicon's Alex).
Explains Freudmann, "This album is a collection of tunes for a solo cello. The selections are recorded in one pass of the tape using digital delays and looping gear to create a dense overdubbed sound, but without conventional multi-tracking. Finally, there is a bit more sound manipulation and editing during the mastering process."
Hologram Crackers represents the fifth album from the quirky cello maestro, and displays Freudmann's wild imagination. With tracks like "Bayou Barn Dance" and "Robin Hood Changes His Oil," Freudmann shows that he won't be confined to the traditional.
The problem is, the songs tend to sound the same after awhile. While Hologram Crackers is interesting at the start, it eventually starts to run together (like Yes).
Freudmann would release a more colorful record with a band behind him and some more flavoring.
- Randy Krbechek © 2000
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