Take it and Drive
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cd cover Smadj
Take it and Drive
Rasa Music (www.rasamusic.com)

One of the good things about Jean-Pierre "Smadj" Smadja is that he's not merely a guy who knows how to manipulate knobs, switches, programs and samples to create techno music. He's also an accomplished player of the 'ud. Therefore, he must know that no matter how much 'gee-ain't-that-trippy' trickery goes into creating music that sounds ultramodern, it's going to come out sounding pretty cold if there's not some traces of a human touch as well. He lost sight of that fact in making much of Take it and Drive, but has still managed to create a good contemporary pastiche of Arabic, African, Indian and European sounds. The beats are mostly mid-tempo, grinding and buzzing along with mechanized drums and instrumental splotches making way for sampled sounds and attuned guest appearances by Malian songbird Rokia Traore, techno-minded tabla whiz Talvin Singh, Ekova singer Deirdre Dubois and adventurous Indian vocalist Amit Chatterjee. Songs like the title track, "He Said" and "Meeting with the Bushmen" (on which a group of Kalahari Desert denizens blend in with ancient grace) are just unrelenting enough to allow enjoyment on both sides of the traditional/modern equation, and the ud-prominent tracks ("Sel," "Tristan") build walls of nice eerie rhythm behind Smadj's peppery plucking. Not the best album of its kind but not all bad, either. - Tom Orr

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