A smorgasbord album, the cast list includes Bjork, Siouxsie Sioux, Brendan Perry, and long-term sidekick Barbera Googan. As expected, the mood is cold, often somber in tone. Only on "The Long Voyage," a springy ditty fronted by Suzanne Vega and John Cale, does the album ascend from the depths. Some of the gloom works, like in "Havet Stomar," a brilliant slow burner with B.J. Cole's pedal steel guitar and ECM artist Lene Willemark's chilling howls. "Annukka Suaren Neito" presents what must be the closest to an Eskimo rap you can get. Mark Isham provides freestyle trumpet that almost sounds like seagulls swooping the skies. The Jane Siberry-fronted "She Is Like the Swallow" is a beauty, as soft as it is light. Hector Zazou's electronics are in fine check too. The canvas expands to new textures, such as metallic percussion in "Adventures in the Scandinavian Skin Trade".
LaVoe and Willie Colon came blazing out of the bugalu era and wrote a new script for New York salsa during the late '60s and early '70s: a script that included Puerto Rican and Panamanian graftings on the basic Cuban scion, and a tough lyricism that spoke of "barrio" problems to a "barrio audience". Then the pair split, and eventually Ruben Blades filled LaVoe's place in the Colon band's developing persona. Now – for this album at least – LaVoe and Colon are back together with that fat, macho trombone sound and the old width of reference (including a splendid plena, "En el Fiando.")
With Lights in the Dark, Hector Zazou set out to create accessible versions of the ominous, sacred music of Ireland. Utilizing a talented cast of vocalists, Breda Mayock, Katie McMahon, and Lasairfhiona Ni Chonaola, Zazou keeps the music relatively quiet. Shimmering bells, plaintive flutes, and Mark Isham's mournful trumpet serve mostly as background noises to the passionate, female vocals. There are moments of great power, such as "Song of the Passion" and "In the Name of the Father May We Gain Victory," and other songs where there's just a few too many hallelujahs for most modern listeners. The title of the album is telling.
Geographies was one of Hector Zazou's first ventures into an odd genre he would linger in for much of the next two decades: the soundtrack for an imaginary film. Mixing in influences from all across the stylistic spectrum, Zazou leavens the ingredients with an overriding sense of calm and even languor, his moody scores possessing a warm, humid quality. The pieces here are performed by what is essentially a chamber orchestra augmented by singers. Listeners familiar with his forays into Afro-funk (for example, Noir et Blanc with the Zairean singer Bony Bikaye) may be somewhat befuddled at the classical restraint shown here.
"A study in sentimental strata… eleven fragments of a Lovers' Discourse…" H. Zazou's 3rd chamber music album for the MTM Series features electronically-reprocessed acoustic instruments, such as trumpet, sax, clarinet, and string quartet. Geologies is an unusual Hector Zazou album in that it is strings focused, albeit electronic music somewhat short of Zazou's usual quirks from his later period. You should bear in mind that it is an earlier album and as such shows Zazou still perfecting his ultimate and unique style with sounds and electronics. Following on from Noir et Blanc, this album is entirely different in tone, many longer notes, intertwining strings melodies and occasional use of some unusual harmonies.
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Recorded in 2010 during Riccardo Muti's first subscription concerts as the Chicago Symphony Orchestra's tenth music director, this new double-CD release pairs Hector Berlioz's beloved Symphonie fantastique with its sequel, Lélio, ou le retour de la vie (Lélio, or The Return to Life). Berlioz intended Symphonie fantastique to be followed by Lélio in concert, as the artist returns to life to comment anew on music and art. Maestro Muti and the CSO are joined in Lélio by the acclaimed actor Gérard Depardieu as the narrator, tenor Mario Zeffiri, bass-baritone Kyle Ketelsen, and the Chicago Symphony Chorus. With the "conclusion and complement" of Symphonie fantastique, as Berlioz referred to Lélio, this recording increases listeners' familiarity with the music of a daring and revolutionary composer.