Asteriskos - Asino Siculo
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Asino Siculo
Folkclub Ethnosuoni (

cd cover This trio of instrumentalists are from northeastern Sicily and play a sophisticated distillation of traditional music. At first they seem like traditionalists, with no electric instruments and a rootsy rural spirit, but their clever, ever-shifting arrangements reveal their sophistication. Laying down multiple layers of rhythm, they toss out a picnic-basket full of light-hearted filligrees and harmonies.

At their simplest, the members of Asteriskos sound like they are standing in a town square in Sicily in another century, playing for a local celebration. At their most intense, such as on "Janca Luna (White Moon)," they bring to mind Sweden's Hedningarna, without the electronics. (On the album's one traditional song, the rather gothic "Vitti 'na Crozza (I Saw A Skull)," they even have a jew's harp's rubbery rhythms bouncing off what could easily be Anders Norudde's biting willow flute.) Giancarlo Parisi, who plays several instruments and wrote most of the songs, is well-matched by the group's creative percussionist, Massimo Laguardia and nimble-fingered accordionist Tanino Lazzaro.

As talented as all three players are it is also obvious that they can be as silly as the photo on the CD cover, an image of what looks like several lambs perched nonchalantly in a tree. On "Paisi in Festa (Village Festival)" the music dissolves into the background and the ambient sounds of a town festival come to the foreground for a short while. On another tune, one of the singers brings the music to a dead stop with what is quite an impressive imitation of a donkey.

To close the album, the trio takes a bittersweet look at the island's legacy of immigration with "Sognavano L'America (They Dreamt of America)." Here they take a posture of seriousness not so apparent on the rest of the album. They render the tune with eloquent poignancy; in a sort-of cinematic approach, they weave in sounds of prerecorded voices at an airport and the occasional operatic wail.

Though immigration is often bittersweet, it would be nothing but a joy to see this music find its way off the island of Sicily and into other towns, villages and cities. - Marty Lipp

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