Wednesday, April 21, 2010

In review--Bathing Beauties

Milagro Acustico
Thermae Atmospherae
Look Studio/CNI Music

Since 2002 when I was first introduced to the Italian ensemble Milagro Acustico, I have reviewed several of its recordings. MA’s music can best be described as a musical journey through time and space that marries contemporary genres such as jazz with ancient Silk Road and Mediterranean music traditions. The musicians, led by Bob Salmieri embed passionate female and male vocals within an array of exotic acoustic instruments. Fans of Middle Eastern and Turkish lutes, percussion as well as, flamenco guitar, western horns, and bass will feel at home listening to the 3-CD album, Thermae Atmospherae.

When I put the first disc into my player the songs sounded familiar to my ears. So I brought out previous MA recordings and I noticed that many, if not all the music on the CDs had been pre-recorded and I believe arranged in a slightly different manner. Thermae Atmospherae revolves around the concept of the Roman bath, but could imply Turkish and other community bath situations. Each CD represents a different room in the Roman bath, (Frigidarium, Tepidarium and Caladarium).

The liner notes cite, “…It is an endless journey along the coasts of the Mediterranean Sea, visiting the countries bordering this basin that always unites and divides people who lived through their business, struggles, religions, ideas and cultures.” Fortunately, music provides a universal language with a multitude of timbres, melodies and rhythms that unite us and bring peace when most needed. And in the hands of Milagro Acustico, music also acts as a travel companion that entices us with the exotic and the familiar.

For instance, the third CD alone provides ethereal music that recalls spiritual pilgrims, Sufi poets and New Orleans-style jazz (Escape from Bogsac), mixed with belly dancing rhythms. A listener can sit back in his or her armchair with the headphones on, and travel around the world in the course of three CDs. I wouldn’t recommend MA’s music for meditation, but certainly some of it entices a dance or two out of its listeners or a deep listening experience with the music acting as the main focus. Turkish, Arabic, Mediterranean, Silk Road genres and jazz all make their home on these discs and even with this odd fusion, the musicians succeed with this multinational acoustic groove project.

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