New Reviews: April 9, 2004

Reviews by Matthew J. Forss

Emma Shapplin
Ark 21

Parisian-born singer and poet, Emma Shapplin, brings us amazing vocal talent on her latest release, Etterna. The success of her debut effort, Carmine Meo (1997), spurred great interest, acclaim and regional (mostly European) recognition. Etterna continues the journey of superlative vocal abilities against a backdrop of breath taking string arrangements. Symphonic choral pieces, majestic choirs, contemporary and classical string arrangements and a powerful, but crystalline voice, appropriately convey Emma Shapplin’s vision of complete and unhindered musical independence. Emma’s passion for musical independence was clearly evident by the fact that she was the sole writer/lyricist on all of the tracks. Each song was written in the Old Italian language; specifically in the writing style of 14th century Italy. Etterna is a truly superb album that utilizes the foundational and complex abilities of the human voice as a musical instrument that elicits the full spectrum of human emotion.

Kristi Stassinopoulou
The Secrets Of The Rocks
Tinder Records

Producer, lyricist and vocalist, Kristi Stassinopoulou, brings us an album of experimental expression inspired by the elements, specifically from the vicinity of the Aegean Sea. Musically, of the songs are characteristically reminiscent of natural forces including water, gusts of wind and seashore taking the brunt of the incoming waves. Similarly, The Secrets Of The Rocks, attempts to recreate the sounds of the Aegean Sea by way of lyrical references that evoke Earthly visualizations, and the musical realizations of the generated images induced. Kristi utilizes contemporary sound arrangements and keyboard washes with traditional saz, bass, bagpipe, flute, lyre, accordion and assorted percussion. All songs are sung in Greek. For the most part, Kristi uses simple, yet clear, vocal stylings, at times strikingly similar to Finland’s female vocal group Varttina, over a somewhat complex and meandering background of instrumental musings that are as unpredictable and fascinating as the Earthly elements themselves. Overall, Kristi Stassinopoulou has created a basically indefinable genre of music. One should unlock and tap into the musical “secrets” of nature and give The Secrets Of The Rocks an intent listen.

Miary Lepiera
Tinder Records

Hailing from Madagascar, Miary Lepiera, combines traditional Malagasy rhythms and instruments with contemporary arrangements and familiar African choral elements. Lyrically, Miary essentially writes songs concerning love, desire, marriage, farm work, friendship and independence, in a Malagasy context. Instrumentation includes acoustic and electric guitars, keyboards, bass, organ, cello, violin, drums and assorted percussion. Male and female lead vocals and backing vocals express the emotion of the moment on several tracks, mostly in harmonic interludes. Overall, Soro is a very, upbeat, musical endeavor that explores the music of the people of Madagascar in contemporary times. Miary Lepeira can join the ever-growing list of musicians emerging from Madagascar. The musical efforts of similar groups, such as Rajery and Tarika, continue to gain regional and international exposure among the musical communities throughout the world. Fans of Malagasy folk, jazz, vocal, and instrumental music should savor the musical contribution of Soro, while simultaneously acquiring a deeper appreciation for the music of Madagascar.

Israeli Songs
Arc Music

Israeli Songs is the latest release from Shir, a traditional Jewish folk ensemble. Shir is comprised of Maurice Chernick (vocals, clarinet, saxophone), Ivor Goldberg (guitar, vocals), Piotr Jordan (violin), and Steve Rose (acoustic bass). Other instruments incorporated include the classical guitar, 12-string guitar, cumbus, nageni (lyre), and assorted percussion. Upbeat melodies of happiness and cheerfulness and slower medleys with somber connotations describe the complete musical spectrum of traditional Jewish music. The vocals, where present, are sung in Hebrew. Most of the songs are widely known in Israel and familiar to millions around the world. An informative booklet in English, German, and French translations, detail the musicians, songs and instruments. Great for the Yiddish, Jewish, and Klezmer music lover!

Horace X
Omnium Records

Horace X is an electronic group with infused jazz elements. Based in the UK, Horace X incorporates contemporary vocals, rhythms and arrangements similar to popular electronic/jazz styles in North Africa, Europe, and the Caribbean. Instruments utilized include the fiddle, clarinet, baritone sax, bass, drums, and assorted electronic programming. The meaning of Sackbutt, stems from an ancient French Trombone. Overall, various drum-bass beats, jazz rhythms, electronic beats, fast vocal patterns and a colorful CD insert present a unique musical adventure that finds a home within the global electronic music realm.

Matthew J. Forss is currently a full-time student at Lakeland College-Sheboygan, Wisconsin. He is majoring in Biology and German Language/Culture. Since 1998, he has collected numerous musical instruments and CDs from around the world. Also in 1998, he wrote a paper on Mongolian Ethnomusicology, entitled: How Does Music Play An Important Role In The Life And Culture Of Mongolia? Currently, he has collected over 100 CDs that represent dozens of different countries. His general interests include ethnomusicology journalism and researching the traditional/contemporary ethnic music of various cultures from around the world. His specific, geographic areas of study include the traditional and popular music from Central Eurasia (especially Mongolia, Uzbekistan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan.) In November of 2000, he accepted the position of writing world music CD reviews for this site.