Amana is an Arabic term that refers to the most fundamental life energy in women, and it is a term that equally applies to the debut album of this Japanese female trio. Amana's music is a thrilling mixture of ethnic Japanese music, African and Middle Eastern rhythms and textures, and Indian classical instrumentation and forms, particularly raga. The group constructs their songs from the ground up, first laying down rhythmic tracks out of bass and percussive elements and then augmenting those grooves with melodies created by instruments such as sitar and harmonium. Those melodies are frequently long and protracted vamps, sometimes building to spiritually potent climaxes, as on the opening track, and sometimes skipping along good-naturedly, occasionally with the help of chorale vocals from the ladies. The album, though, by and large is an instrumental one, and it reaches backwards to ancient musical traditions as a way of pushing forward to new combinations and amalgams. The joyousness created by the upbeat songs is palpable and infectious, while the sublime beauty of the more spiritually inclined songs is wholly intoxicating. Therein lies the album's only flaw. This creates a disorientation at times that is not troubling, but does drain some of the tonal power out of the competing styles. The upbeat songs, although wonderful on their own, seem superfluous next to the austere spiritual songs, and those spiritual songs, while luscious and intoxicating on their own, can sound rigid or at least severely austere when placed next to the whimsicality of the upbeat songs. This is problematic only in terms of the overall impact of Amana, however, and not in terms of the overall quality of the album. If listened to in the latter manner, each song a separate experience in and of itself, the rewards are plentiful indeed.
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AllMusic Review by Stanton Swihart