Awen Magic Land
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Awen Magic Land
Awen Magic Land
Resistencia (www.edires.com)

The project of former Celtas Cortos member Carlos Soto and uillean-pipe and whistle player Maria Desbordes, Awen Magic Land venture into the fertile lands where folk music and electronic knob-twiddling meet. Marrying acoustic instrumentation to techno world-beats can be a dangerous proposition, because such projects really do run the risk of being uninspired, or bettered by others who are masters at this craft (such as the Transglobal Underground, or Nidi d'Arac). Electronics allow for a broadening of the artistic palette, so the question becomes: what does Awen Magic Land bring to the table?

What strikes me about Awen Magic Land's debut is how their music is as comfortable as my favorite sweater, with a sunniness that just flows from the speakers. The music would make pleasant enough background music, but fortunately for the band, they are more distinctive than this. Soto and Desbordes set about exploring tunes that primarily reflect the influence of Brittany and Spain, and the emphasis is not so much on grinding techno flourishes as it is on performing graceful music. In fact, Awen Magic Land seem not to be designed for clubland as much as for chilled-out ambiance. The song "Digarez ac'hanon" is a prime example of the seam Awen Magic Land work; with Desbordes' vocals and the spaced-out beat, you could be forgiven if you mistook Awen Magic Land for trip-hop artists Portishead.

The other aspect of Awen Magic Land's marriages of sound is that they always have a human touch, amidst all the electronic manipulation. Very high praise must go to the diatonic accordion player Yannig Noguet, whose playing is a real highlight on this album. So, rather than the typical kind of repetition that can accompany some electronica projects, the listener is treated instead to a band playing their tunes in sympathy with the electronic augmentation. Take "Le reve des enfants," for example; there are light dub effects, and an echoing techno sound effect, but these do not in any way overwhelm the performance by the band. Throughout Awen Magic Land, Desbordes' whistles and piping are truly lovely, and Soto's contributions by way of production and programming ensure that we appreciate her work.

The lengthy "St Vincent trip" closes out the CD, and brings all of the band's strengths to the fore. Here, Soto stretches out on soprano sax, as the beats and harp caress the solo; again, the fact that Awen Magic Land's philosophy even allows for such soloing is quite telling. Awen Magic Land's ethno-techno is unhurried and unassuming, conveying a real sense of the Celtic influences in Spain and Brittany, and all the better for it. - Lee Blackstone

The artists' web site: www.awenmagicland.com

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