Robert Macht / Vishnu
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Robert Macht Vishnu Innova (www.innovarecordings.com) Vishnu is music inspired by Javanese gamelan music, which is often gentler and less dynamic than Balinese. And although one of the notable features of gamelan is group interaction, most of this music was played by Macht alone, overdubbing himself on a basic gamelan setup, with various guest artists on some of the tracks. About half of the pieces feature Hyunah Yu, a classically-trained soprano, singing in Indonesian, and there are other musicians adding some percussion or flute on some of the songs, which adds some nice textural variation. There are other influences at work here, from Indian to African, but they are skillfully interwoven with the gamelan and aren't thrown into the mix to call attention to themselves.

It seems in a way that this music is almost too subtle. There are notes that explain each piece, but hearing everything that's going on requires attentive listening, which is at odds with the soothing and repetitive sounds. It wouldn't be fair to call this music for musicians because anyone could enjoy this, but there's much more here than pleasant background music. And the more familiarity the listener has with traditional Javanese gamelan, the more this music can be enjoyed on its merits. - Joe Grossman

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