Prayer for the Forest by Antonio Testa and “Alio Die” (Stefano Musso) GreenHouse Music, 2002 http://www.greenhousemusic.com The Italian duo of Testa and Musso follow up their 1997 release “Healing Herb’s Spirit” with another album of earnest neo-primitivism, Prayer for the Forest. Like many other examples of the “tribal” genre, Prayer for the Forest is composed of a combination of ancient, Native, and “found” percussion such as rattles, rocks, sticks, and whistles, along with environmental sounds, and up-to-date synthesizers and sound processing equipment. The mood of the album is almost always somnolent and nocturnal, with slow rhythms and quiet dynamics. On “Ancestor’s Breath,” (track 3) for instance, a single drum beat sounds against the crackling noise of fire and the sound of wind and crow calls, picturing a night spent in shamanic ritual. The next track, track 4, “Walking through the camp” is a bit more upbeat, with repeating loops of African folk music and the voices of villagers. But by track 5 they are back into the eerie night, mixing shortwave radio sweep sounds with loops of bells and synthesizer drones. These are all sound-tricks I have heard before. Testa and Musso represent a style which has been widely explored in both Europe and the USA, inspired by aboriginal and shamanic musical cultures. The European brand of this style has always had, to me a kind of wistful post-colonial nostalgia to it. No matter how much one visits or studies these indigenous cultures, one is always a stranger to them, and no matter how many tribal drums or rattles one has, it is still Europeans playing them urban Europeans who yearn for, but can never really participate in, the idealized village life and natural world that this music is meant to evoke. Hannah M.G. Shapero 4/18/02
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