Apsaras by “Alio Die” (Stefano Musso) and Amelia Cuni Projekt, 2001 http://www.projekt.com An “apsara” is a singing water nymph from Indian folklore, a celestial mermaid. In this album, the voice of the Apsara is Amelia Cuni, an Italian singer who sings in the “dhrupad” style of North Indian traditional music. “Alio Die” or Stefano Musso provides accompaniment with layers of synthesizer drones, sound-loops, watery special effects, and environmental recordings.
Some years ago (1995) Robert Rich came out with an album, Yearning, which featured Rich on electronics and flutes and Lisa Moskow on an Indian stringed instrument, the sarod. Apsaras is very much like the earlier Rich album, except that the strings have been replaced by the voice and indeed, Cuni’s vocalizations often follow the same notes as a stringed instrument. Like Rich’s album, Apsaras is slow, nocturnal, contemplative to the point of trance. In fact, Musso has worked with Rich on a collaborative album, Fissures in 1997.
But Musso, despite using many of the same sound-textures, is not a clone of Robert Rich. His vision is more abstract, his harmonies more dissonant. Despite the splashing and the calls of tropical birds, this album seems chilly, at least for the first four tracks. A Western listener (like me) will not know the original context of the Indian singing, and thus in these four tracks, the constant “bending” of the vocal notes can become monotonous and even whiny. But this whole ensemble lightens up in tracks 5 and 6. After 4 mournful tracks, numbers 5 and 6 use more cheerful harmonies, and the singing has more variety. These last two tracks add a welcome sensuality and warmth to the watery song of the oriental siren.
Hannah M.G. Shapero 5/2/02
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