In this half-hour EP, Avital Raz shows why several classical orchestras chose her as singer, though not a shred of Strange Love Songs reflects the Western classicalist tradition overtly, skewing much more satisfyingly to a fusion of folk, Indian (something of a cross between ghazal and slow raga), and Jewish religious music (piyutim). That blend of modes perfectly accommodates her melismatic approach, but fundamental classical training also figures in, as Raz's compositional choices are superb. Despite being spare throughout, not a note is less than perfect and the development of her melody lines deceptive, reflecting an immersion in subtleties that escape most musics.
Raz plays guitar and tanpura but also tracks herself for backing vocals when others aren't sessioned in. Her vocals and compositions make the CD truly intrigue, Weep perhaps being the best exemplar of that. A short track, the song centers a duet of gracefully swooping and intertwining voices (both hers) matrixed in sketched tones minimally but beautifully opening the heavens up to the pain and sadness of the human sphere. In key places throughout the CD, Ofra Avni's bansuri becomes equally crucial, as evanescent, but also as sirenic, as Raz's presence.
This is music as much for existential reflection as for aesthetic contemplation, a disc melding several worlds and many concerns into one. There's a haunting beauty imbuing every measure, drawing the mind along with the senses. The lyrics to Migraine in Katmandu reflect the schism of the apparent and the real, the perceived and the actual, and all the infinite problems arising from dualism. In fact, though the CD only very peripherally touches upon it in a brief reference to old Chinese paintings, there's a strong affinity to ukiyo-e, the Japanese floating world devoted to escaping the pain of phenomena for the grandeur of beauty and art. Such is the human condition, and such is what Strange Love Songs is intimately wrapped around.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2009, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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