Welsh composer Karl Jenkins gained international attention for his 1999 crossover opus The Armed Man, a millennial "mass for peace" that extended the Renaissance tradition of masses based on the tune L'homme armé. This release and several others with the loosely conceived ensemble called Adiemus predated that breakthrough and share its audacity and ambition. Jenkins has been more popular in crossover-happy Britain than in the more category-conscious U.S., and what you think of him may depend on whether you find crossover music in general infectious or bombastic. Take it for what it is, though, and you have to give this Cantata Mundi major points for originality. Jenkins is not easy to categorize, but he certainly doesn't simply add rock elements to an existing classical model or vice-versa. The Adiemus albums contain elements of the progressive rock Jenkins performed early in his career, of new age music, of the British choral tradition, of the television advertising music Jenkins wrote for many years, of Orff perhaps, and, especially on the present disc, of percussion from various world traditions that was "banked" and applied to the music as a rhythm track. The percussion is present in the seven movements marked "Cantus" of this 14-movement work, but not in the seven shorter Chorales. Electronics are applied as well to the vocals, which are performed by singer Miriam Stockley and expanded into choral effects by means of multitracking and overdubs. As in other Adiemus albums, Jenkins uses meaningless syllables in place of actual texts; they mostly consist of vowel sounds that "harmonize" with the music in such a way as to make the voices seem like instruments. The results sound somewhat like they've been passed through a Vocoder. The large orchestra and pervasive and varied percussion on this disc make it a high-energy affair, more suited to the gym perhaps than to the meditative ends Jenkins seems to strive toward. But if you haven't heard Jenkins' music, Adiemus II: Cantata Mundi makes a fine place to start.
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AllMusic Review by James Manheim