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TRACK LIST: 1. Indica 7:20 2. Ouahdub 11:00 3. Tunisian Winter 7:05 4. Onze 5:02 5. La Fiche 10:19 6. Lavapies 11:03 7. The National Anthem 6:07 8. Flashback 7:42 LINEUP: Pablo Hernandez Ramos – saxophone Sergio Salvi – keyboards, electronics Larbi Sassi – violin; vocals Akin Onasanya – drums Javier Geras – bass With: Alana Sinkey – vocals Niraj Singh – tabla, kanjira Ariel Bringuez – saxophone Emilse Barlatay – flute Javier Paxarino – flute Jorge Pardo – flute
Prolusion. The Spanish band SINOUJ is a self-described Afromediterranean combo that seeks to explore a blend of sounds and rhythms from multiple cultural origins into their music. They have pursued that vision over a number of live performances over the years, on two live albums and two studio recordings. "La Fiche" is the most recent of the latter, and was self-released in 2014.
Analysis. The music of Sinouj is one that hovers on the borderline of the progressive rock genre, sometimes stepping inside with half a foot or so, sometimes taking a step away from that threshold again. I rather suspect that the progressive rock audience isn't one they have a large focus on and that their focus is primarily aimed towards those with an affection for jazz. While the band does stride confidently in to the realms of jazz-fusion at times, perhaps first and foremost on their jazzed-up take on Radiohead's ’The National Anthem’, I guess that the main ingredients of this CD are closer to what might be described as rock-tinged jazz, lacking the distinct characteristics of rock music. The rhythms tend to operate inside jazz-oriented patterns and movements, and the bass lines also tend to have that wandering, free movement mostly associated with that genre. The use of flute and violin does add some additional flavors to the table, Middle East-oriented ones first and foremost, while the liberal amount of saxophone solos tends to be of a nature jazz fans will recognize and treasure. The guitar isn't present as such, but keyboards and occasional futuristic sounding effects provided by those do tend to light up the moods and atmospheres when employed. One might add that the rhythms department does have a tendency to include details of a world music-oriented manner as well, but I experience that detail as explored within a jazz context rather than being jazz-oriented rhythms explored within a world music context. At best, this makes for a compelling blend of sounds and traditions, where often longing and subtly mournful world music details are provided by the violin, the saxophone adds a jazz emphasis to the proceedings, while the rhythms set off in a manner you'll otherwise hear in African music and similar musical traditions with an ancient history of rhythms instruments being vital in their culture – jazz-meets-world music with occasional dips into jazz rock territories. The musicianship is excellent, the mainly instrumental songs are well mapped out to maintain tension and supply variation, with room for gentler and almost tranquil sequences just as much as expressive, subtly chaotic passages where the jazz-based tendencies rise up to dominate. Personally I do find the band to be at their best when they focus on the more overt blend of musical traditions, and perhaps slightly less interesting when hitting out on a more distinct jazz-oriented vein. That is a matter of personal taste more than anything though, as the compositions and performances hold a steady and high quality throughout.
Conclusion. Sinouj is a quality venture that has the combination of jazz and world music as their main strength, where the use of Middle Eastern sounds and ancient rhythm traditions seamlessly combine with jazz and occasionally jazz rock to form compelling and inviting musical landscapes. First and foremost, this is a production to be sought out by those who treasure blends of this specific nature. The occasional subtle dips into jazz rock territories might make this a CD also of interest to progressive rock fans, and then first and foremost for those who also tend to appreciate jazz obviously.
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