Gai Saber / Electro-Ch'oc
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Gai Saber
Bagarre Records (2002) (

cd cover Gai Saber return to the world music stage with their latest document from the Piedmont valleys, Electro Ch'oc. This is Gai Saber's boldest recording yet. Once again, they unabashedly celebrate the Occitan language and its medieval roots, but this is also a full-fledged dive into electronic experimentation for the band. Prior Gai Saber CDs were a grab-bag of stylistic influences, by turns folk, rock, and dance. Electro Ch'oc offers a more consistent vision that makes its radical soundscapes downright comforting.

The record begins with an electronic sound collage of muted tones and voices, before jumping into a sort of medieval-meets-drum'n'bass-trip-hop. "La dancarem pus" is a good example of the band at full throttle: Occitan rap-chanting, made disarming by both male and female voices, over a hip-hop dance track that shimmers with metallic bells. The chorus is loud folk-punk, with the guitar echoing the strumming of the Electric Light Orchestra's "Fire on High;" terrific, wild music. Likewise, the deep, deep bass in "Sentiment embrolhat" is enough to send shudders through your floorboards; add to that harp, accordion, bagpipes, and hurdy-gurdy, and you've got pure poetry for ancient tongues. It is a testament to Gai Saber's obvious confidence at fusing genres that the group's gorgeous rendering of a twelfth-century medieval text on "No sap chantan qui so non di" rivals the very best moments of Garmarna's ambitious Hildegard von Bingen project.

To be honest, I had trouble listening to Electro Ch'oc at home. I would play the CD repeatedly, but it mystifyingly failed to connect with me until I put the disc into my car stereo, and hit the road. There, under the autumn sky and with fall leaves blowing across the road, Gai Saber's music merged with a landscape in motion. If you are fond of pagan music for non-purists, Electro Ch'oc is as restless and challenging a release as you are likely to come across this year. - Lee Blackstone

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