Helen Rivero and Ian Blake - Luminous / World Music, Roots Music
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cd cover Helen Rivero and Ian Blake
artsACT (www.arts.act.gov.au)

"night music...dreams and charms...from around the world..."
This is the prelude to Luminous, Helen Rivero and Ian Blake's epic exploration of lullabies throughout the world. At seventy-five minutes and counting, Luminous will never ascend to top the pop charts in the English-speaking world, but it does offer a series of non-archetypal renditions of lullabies from a plethora of cultures using Rivero's multifaceted vocals, Blake's subtle keyboards, strings and woodwinds, and echoing percussion by Peter Kennard as the backdrop.

Undoubtedly, the vocals are intended as the album's central focus, as many tracks border on a capella and very few feature the instrumentation of the whole group; quite rightly, considering Rivero is one of the few vocalists around the world who can make childlike noises at one moment and sing in a sumptuous contralto that rivals Fitzgerald and Vaughn the next. Beyond the vocals and instrumentation, the artistry and premise of Luminous transport the listener inside the dream scape of a child wherein both terror and assurance can be found in the music.

Never is this more apparent than in the album's opener, "O Tula," a Zulu lullaby that begins with those childlike noises over lightly reverberating African drums before developing a dance rhythm to match Rivero's stylish jazz vocals. Elsewhere, her take on the Yiddish "Rozinkes mit mandlen" features a slow, ominous beginning, with the voice creaking over haunting background sounds before turning jazz cool as the music becomes a mid-tempo easterrn European dance tune. In these two songs, a pattern emerges. Each song seems to be a dream journey, an escape into the human psyche that encompasses both terror and sadness as well as the soothing elements of the lullabies.

As the collection winds down, the cacophony of vocal and instrumental sounds changes, all unified by interludes led by the voice. The Creole "La rivyer Tanier" features torch vocals, in the beginning a small soprano, as if a child is singing to us, then turning to a vibrant, sweeping alto to represent the adult. "Flicker," by contrast, is an ominous cello-driven song with soaring vocals to convey first sadness then anger over a frenetic beat.

The final three tracks are both forboding and soothing. The Italian "Fi la nanae mi bel fiol" is a cacophony of almost incoherent computerized whispers, while "Suo gan," a Welch chantey, is a torch ballad with soft piano and jazz vocals. The album's closer "Om Tare" is a Tibetan chant, sung a capella by Rivero, her voice conveying sadness and respite.

Luminous is a multilingual collection of traditional lullabies turned inside out to tell the story from the child dreamer's perspective. - Tracy M. Rogers

The artists' web site: www.helenrivero.com

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