(Artwork care of Karen Ramsay (www.karenramsay.com), profile photo care of brianlackeyphotography.com)

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

CD review - El Boy Die, The Black Hawk Ladies & Tambourins (2010)

This is the sound from the new traveling circus show
The Black Hawk Ladies and Tambourins
This is the sound of hope and dishonor
This is the sound of betrayal and bewilderment
This is ancient and new
Is anyone here? 'Cause the sound starts now
This is the Sound, the opening track of The Black Hawk Ladies & Tambourins, is a foreboding, but strong beginning. A young girl's voice stands firm against flickers of unresolved sound. It proves a harbinger of the sonic journey that follows. French experimental folk artist El Boy Die has crafted a heady experience, using a mix of mildly psychedelic soundscapes, tribal chanting, and bits of musique concrète.

The Black Hawk Ladies & Tambourins meanders through a series of stations, each part of some unknown rite. The music has a folky foundation, but the layers of subtle percussion, winding melodies, and odd washes of sound imbue each track with a different perspective and mood.

The flow of songs is hard to interrupt to pick favorite moments, but Moona Luna Tears stands out somewhat from the host of folk-based songs. It's jazzy and percussive. The melody wanders and doubles back. Along with the soft, compressed vocals, this creates a hypnotic groove that a lone string solo weaves through.

Under My Broken Tree takes a women's chorale sound and anchors it to a mournful melody. The music behind the chant continually builds until the vocals drop away allowing the music to slide into a tense repetition. The ending takes on background distorted wails of flute.

Finally, Take Me Away starts with a simple folky guitar phrase and haunted, ethereal vocals. Something about the changes and the flow evokes Pink Floyd's Welcome to the Machine. The context is completely different, but that adds depth to the track.

Still, The Black Hawk Ladies & Tambourins is better heard as a complete piece. It rewards each listen with fine background details, like a fine cognac.

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