Abdelli / Among Brothers
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Abdelli
Among Brothers
Real World (www.realworldusa.com)

"There are two things you don't want to see being made - sausage and law." (attributed, probably apocryphally, to German chancellor Otto von Bismarck, 1815-1898)

cd cover The liner notes of Among Brothers, the second RealWorld release from Algerian vocalist and mandola player Abdelli, is candid about the making of the recording. Abdelli laid down basic tracks, which were circulated by his producer, Thierry Van Roy, to groups of musicians in Cape Verde, Azerbaijan, and Burkina Faso, who recorded their own contributions on their own ground. The approach seems at first less than organic, more suited to booming techno-dance remixes, and indeed there are numerous points in these tracks where the editing screams "deus ex machina," especially in comparison to the sparse production of Abdelli's 1995 debut, New Moon. But the result is not only surprising, but compelling and even endearing. The experiment must be declared a success.

In the introduction to "Amazine (The Wind)," Abdelli's oud-like mandola alone in a free rhythmic environment leads into his intimate vocal, itself free to quest between half-tones in search of the perfect effect. On the main track, mandola sets a repeated theme, followed by lilting violin and Abdelli's own liquid, gurgling vocal. The repeated figure gains power as drums and ney enter, leading into a mid-track fugue with percussion and ney, returning to the vocal line with a Moorish flare provided by Spanish guitar. A flute introduction, warbling in the center of a suspended rhythmic space, leads into "Itij (The Soul)," its swinging melody oddly but compellingly prosecuted by both flute and accordion, Abdelli's vocal at its best in a haunting melody, with accordion almost succeeding in transforming the beat to a skipping waltz, but settling for a strutting polyrhythm. Perhaps the most striking track is "Asiram (Hope)," on which cavaquinho and accordion shuffle merrily behind a happy flute and Abdelli vocal, dramatically interrupted by an incursion of percussion and violin on a complementary melody line, a chilling example of Promethean editing, but convincingly interpretable as a coherent if experimental tradition.

Among Brothers entrances on many levels, not the least being its often eerie beauty, especially Abdelli's vocal, which comes to seem a comfortable old friend amidst the stylistic mixing. Bismarck may have known legislation and bangers, but knowledge of the making of Among Brothers only enhances my appreciation for its accomplishment. - - Jim Foley

Visit the artist's web site: www.abdelli.com

Listen to some short MP3 samples

CD is available from cdRoots


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