Gai Saber - Angels Pastres Miracles
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Gai Saber
Angels Pastres Miracles
Felmay (www.felmay.it)

This Occitan folk group included two Christmas songs that were highlights of their 2006 recording, La Fabrica Occitana. With their latest release Gai Saber have entered whole-heartedly into the holiday season by providing us with an entire album devoted to Christmas songs. These traditional carols – Noves Occitani -- date to the medieval era, and are primarily sung in Provence and the Italian Occitan regions.

But here’s the trick.
Christmas albums are often much-maligned, whether for excessive (or even forced) sentimentality, or as a crass attempt to cash-in on an already hyper-commercialized season. Angels Pastres Miracles is none of these things: instead, it is a thoroughly unique take on this Christmas canon. Where La Fabrica Occitana had a more acoustic feel, Gai Saber’s Christmas album pulls out the full electronic arsenal of the band to re-arrange and remix these songs. The result is the most contemporary, sonically arresting recording of Gai Saber since 2002’s groundbreaking Electro Ch’oc.

Harps rub up against skittery electronic beats; the hurdy-gurdy reels away crazily; the band chants at times as if it is deep in religious observance, but then careens off wildly down another track. Dub reggae seems to be a tremendous influence on the band, with its drop-outs and echoes. The opening "Pastres de l’Argentiera"’ and "La cambo me fai mau" both borrow a reggae beat, the latter neatly augmented by live drumming, accented accordion, harp, and the buzz of the hurdy-gurdy. A favorite track – "Micoulou nostre pastre" – takes the reggae groove and surrounds it with crazy electronic effects, and a joyfu harp melody.

It is a Christmas album that is meant to be danced to and reveled in. Given the celebratory sounds and sheer invention on display here, one cannot escape the sense that Occitan culture hosts the greatest Christmases ever. But to be fair, Angels Pastres Miracles is more of a ‘life’ album than a Christmas album, and it is no cliché to say that Gai Saber’s work here will sound just as fresh out-of-season as within the wintertime. I’ll even go one step further: this is the first Christmas album that I’d place on my year-end top ten list. – Lee Blackstone

The band's web site: www.gaisaber.it

Audio samples and Gai Saber CDs are available from cdRoots

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