18 June 2010

Fishtank Ensemble: Finally Some Answers!

Fishtank Ensemble: Woman in Sin

Q: Strange name, Fishtank Ensemble. Is this an album of sea shanties?
A: No, though the CD packaging has an undeniable nautical theme, from the rotating background of undersea critters to lead singer Ursula Knudson's clamshell bikini top and fins-for-feet.

Q: Okay, not shanties. So it must be "world music" though, right?
A: If you say so. Fishtank Ensemble are not easily categorized. The album starts off with classic swing on "Woman in Sin," and gets further Djangoesque on "After You've Gone." But then there's the Romanian twist of "Amurfat de la Haidouk," the dark "Nedim" of Kurdish origins, and the Serbian and Transylvanian tunes comprising "Kolo Suite." And did I mention the cover of that classic torch song "Fever"? All done with virtuosic instrumentation and Knudson's unbelievably flexible voice (she also plays fiddle and musical saw, among other instruments).

Q: Sounds eclectic. Are you reviewing this acoustic mashup because someone recently accused you of spending too much time on electronic global music?
A: Perhaps.

Q: So, do you like the music, or is it a multicultural mess?
A: I like it! It's multicultural, yes, but hardly a mess. Most of the music I enjoy has more drumming/percussion, but those Eastern European tunes are nothing if not rhythmic, and even without cajon the flamenco tune "Pena Andaluz" shines. The album has a nostalgic, retro sheen but its substance shows great musicians making compelling acoustic music mined from cultures near and far. So give it a listen; the music will answer all your questions.

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