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(55:43 / Carbon-7 Records)
TRACK LIST: 1. Dolcenitsa 5:30 2. In a Swedish Mood 4:19 3. Merengue 3:17 4. Petit Detour a l'Est 4:31 5. Rolling Tango 6:00 6. A Walk Over the Downs 4:42 7. Saynatsalo 6:13 8. Aliana Luda 5:08 9. The Left Song 8:31 10. L'Opera De Cinq Sous 3:35 11. Un Match Bresil Bulgarie 3:56 LINEUP: Mathilde Renault - piano; vocals Caroline Shaw - violin Stephan Pougin - percussion Arne Van Dongen - double bass
Prolusion. OVER OCEANS is the brainchild of Mathilde Renault, a pianist, singer and composer from Belgium. This is rather a duo than as presented (a quartet), since only Mathilde and violinist Caroline Shaw play on all eleven tracks here, whereas the other two musicians, percussionist Stephan Pougin and bassist Arne Van Dongen, are each only featured on six and four of them respectively. All I can add here is that "Aliana Luda" is their first release. The fact that this CD arrived without a press kit prompted me to look for the project's biography on the Internet, but with no success.
Analysis. "Aliana Luda" is made up of five pieces featuring vocals and six instrumentals that in the majority of cases strictly alternate with each other, each of the two types of tracks representing quite a different compositionally stylistic approach. So personally I see the best way to properly describe this recording is by dividing its content into two parts. Perhaps only the sixth place in this musical race:-), A Walk Over the Downs, somewhat falls out of that design, as it is essentially a solo piece for the pianist and the violin player. It's the only tune with a purely chamber sound, a carefully woven quasi symphonic pattern with a light jazz feeling in places and only occasional counterpoint melodies - though on the other hand the matter, along with all its primary and accessory qualities cited, is an integral part of each of the other instrumentals too. That said, the rest of the first category, Dolcenitsa, Merengue, Rolling Tango, Saynatsalo and The Left Song, are also all acoustic chamber music with classical and ambient tendencies alike, but are delivered with a different approach than many are used to. Over Oceans seem to be more careful (and cautious too) when building their sonic constructions, repeatedly alternating denser textures with more atmospheric ones with no culminations highlighted. Themes are introduced and thoroughly evolved, though with less alteration to them than we usually meet in Classical music. One might reproach me for taking no notice of the jazzy side of this stuff. I just could not determine what exactly gives a light (yet noticeable, at times distinct) jazz feeling to each of the said tracks, because to my personal of way of thinking the musicians are always too disciplined to regard even their, say, most liberal solo fireworks as quasi improvisations. I also must note that this music has no connection with rock at all, the matter being beyond doubt even during those comparatively rare episodes where the joint playing of congas and bass is more or less tight, revealing at least a distant likeness to a rhythm section, as on The Left Song for example. In most cases, the congas alone provide a bottom line for piano and violin, imparting some ethnic-like flavor to the material everywhere they are used, though as hinted above, there is usually no lack of the two chamber instruments' solo flights either, particularly on Dolcenitsa and Saynatsalo. Of the tracks with vocals, In a Swedish Mood, Petit Detour a l'Est, the title track, L'Opera De Cinq Sous and Un Match Bresil Bulgarie (well really, this woman is a football fan, unlike me), none features percussion or bass either. The classical component is almost completely out, whilst the jazz one gets much stronger, 'best of all' manifesting itself in Mathilde's singing. Overall, each represents a blend of chamber, jazz and World music, the latter ingredient seeming to be directly linked with Japanese music. I'm even inclined to think the lyrics are also in Japanese, though there are few vocals as such here, while most of the vocalizations are performed with a definite jazz inflection.
Conclusion. Basically (compositionally), none of the pieces are intricate, but this certainly doesn't mean they are simplistic. I am not sure that Over Oceans will kill two birds with one stone with this release, meaning equally please advanced listeners and those mostly into accessible Prog, but in any event, this is engaging music that swells with melody and refinement much more often than with rhythm.
VM=Vitaly Menshikov: December 25, 2007
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