Pop/Rock/World CD Reviews
Fishtank Ensemble – Woman in Sin – Fishtank Ensemble Musique Noir – Good Hair – Musique Noir
Published on June 4, 2010
Fishtank Ensemble – Woman in Sin – Fishtank Ensemble FE1003 ****:
Musique Noir – Good Hair – Musique Noir ****:
(FE: Ursula Knudson – vocals, violin banjolele, musical saw, zils; Fabrice Martinez – violin, shaker, violin trumpet; Dougls Douje Smolens – guitars, cajon; Djorde Stijepovic – vocals, shaker, upright bass)
(MN: Michelle May – violin; Leslie Deshazor Adams – violin; Leah Lucas, violin & viola; Jovia Armstrong & Mark Samasky – percussion)
There have been many very clever forays into the crossover area of music on recordings lately. Many are light-years beyond efforts of the past, such as symphony orchestras or leading operatic singers slumming in the pop arena. The influence of world music seems to be a thread running thru many of the crossover albums. These two are very listenable examples of what I’m referring to.
The brave quartet of the Fishtank Ensemble is fearless in their tackling of most any musical genre. This album includes Gypsy, Kurdish, Balkan music, Spanish, jazz, Great American Songbook, and what have you. The vocals by Ursula Knudson are quite amazing – especially the way her treble notes blend into the overdubbed sounds of her musical saw, or perhaps it’s vice versa. The Kolo Suite is an authentic-sounding medley of folk tunes from Serbia and Transylvania, and while Knuson’s delivery of the Peggy Lee hit Fever doesn’t quite match the original, it’s certainly original in its own way. A number of guest artists round out the quartet on various tracks – on accordion, piano, clarinet, flute and dumbek. The actual physical CD is something you’re never going to get via a digital download. It has a unique rotatable plastic disc on the cover which you can move with your finger to display various sorts of fish and sea life swimming around behind the four performers. The CD’s slogan is “Fresh from the Sea to You!”
The Musique Noir instrumental quintet calls their music world fusion – bringing together a sort of classical string quartet setup with jazz and world music. They also round out their group with additional personnel on strings, more percussion, guitars, accordion, and even a Flamenco dancer on one number. Leader and violinist Michelle May put together her ensemble from fellow musicians in the Detroit area, and concentrates on highly individual arrangements of music in the world fusion area. Of course, being from the Detroit area, one can understand that some funk influence joins with those of classical, jazz and world music.
Six of the ten tunes are originals by members of the group, and standouts of the other tracks include a fiery rendition of Chick Corea’s La Fiesta, and a unique arrangement of the Beatles’ Eleanor Rigby. The instrumentation may seem a bit unusual, but the clever arrangements bring it all together in an exciting and tuneful fashion. Some of the string quartet/crossover albums have not quite gotten it in the groove, but Musique Noir is swinging.
TrackList, Fishtank: Woman in Sin, Espagnolette, After You’ve Gone, Am Furat de la Haidouks, Fever, Djordje’s Rachenitza, Pena Andaluz, CouCou, Kolo Suite, O Dewel, Opa Opa, Nedim
TrackList, Musique: Uncle Check’s Cha Cha Cha, Heretic, Twilight, La Fiesta, Shrug, Undiscovered Ds, Eleanor Rigby, Fly Mvmt. II, Hodgepodge, Good Hair
– John Henry