Pipa: From a Distance
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Wu Man
Pipa: From a Distance
Naxos World (www.naxosworld.com)

cd cover Well-worn descriptive words like "exotic" come to mind upon hearing the pipa, a lute-like Chinese instrument with a sound something like a cross between a banjo and an oud. Used for more than 2,000 years in Chinese traditional and classical music, the pipa now finds itself thrust toward techno-trance mode on this cd. True, some of the tunes are on the gentle side ("Ancient Spirits," "White Crane Flying") and some of the new-agey song titles might make you think it's going to be mellow most of the way. But make no mistake: Wu Man likes to let it rip. In her hands, the pipa goes from folksy to psychedelic, grinding to graceful. She's mostly accompanied by a compliment of samples and real (or surreal) instruments, and the results, as on the aptly-named "Dancing!" or the Steve Tibbetts-like "Shanghai Blues," are thrilling. A couple of unadorned solo pieces are thrown in, but even here Man's riffing can get frantic to the point of guilty pleasure. Some of the supporting sounds are a bit much (I could do without that rubber-ducky-being-strangled effect that surfaces on "Bamboo Dreams," for example), but on the whole this is sweetly quirky music that's lively, fun and creative. - Tom Orr

At cdroots.com


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