20 January 2006

Madrigaia's Irresistible Voices (CD Review)

Madrigaia: Pleiades
artist site | buy album

"If you begin with something as pure as the voice, the expression of one's soul...and let the voice be inspired by a multitude of cultural influences, telling the story of our world... a natural evolution occurs, boundaries disappear and people come together sharing one vision, one voice."


That's one of the most useful and accurate liner introductions I've run across. Madrigaia, a seven-woman group from Canada cast their musical net wide, singing songs from Brazil, France, Uruguay, Poland, and beyond. And they carry it off beautifully, with music that sounds natural and grounded (I'm baffled how one critic heard a "new agey feel" anywhere in this album.)

The album opens with a chorus of powerful voices and what sound like found instruments, then a quick segue into a catchy wordless melody backed by bass and percussion. Only looking at the notes do you realize that the instruments include wine glasses, mixing bowl, and other household items. It makes sense for a song entitled "Three Ways to Vacuum Your House: Part I." Then it's off to Brazil and the classic Veloso tune "Ile Aye," with subtle samba beat under clean harmonizing vocals. (This song, by the way, won Madrigaia the "Best World Fusion" distinction at the 5th annual Independent Music Awards - and you can listen online to all the winners.)

And the wandering continues. "Heart Song" draws on First Nations influences (think Ulali with polyrhythmic percussion). Further in is the dynamic Bulgarian tune "More Zajeni Se Guro," with sharp, dark voices and strange rhythms. At this point, Madrigaia are just getting warmed up. You've still got the tango "La Cumparsita," the funky French harmonies of "Tourdion" (with fabulous bass and udu), the a cappella "Chanson Demode" and on and on.

The year is young, but I have no doubt that I'll return to this album's copious pleasures again and again, and it will end up on my "Best of 2006" list. Pleiades is consistently engaging, with strong sure voices and delightful backing music. Run, don't walk, to get this album!

[mp3] Madrigaia: "Three Ways to Vacuum Your House: Part 1"
[mp3] Madrigaia: "Um canto de afoxé para o Bloco do Ilê -Ilê aye"
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