The fusion of the world's folk traditions, especially with western electronica, has always been regarded with a certain amount of suspicion in pop culture circles. There have been some examples where this notion is worth considering, but more often than not, simplistic, wrongheaded ideas about musical "purity" and cultural elitism have been at the fore. Jef Stott has been transcending this nonsense since he began his career in the 1990s, with Stellamara and Lumin, and finally solo. An anthropologist, producer (Tunisia's MC Rai, Persian group Somma, etc.), and multi-instrumentalist, he has studied traditional musics with great masters; most notably Hamza el Din and Omar Faruk Tekbilek. He is at the forefront of the Global Bass Movement, an international consortium of musicians, dancers, and choreographers. Arcana, his third solo offering on Six Degrees, hopefully creates numerous atmospheres for those inhabiting dancefloors in clubs (and deserts -- Stott has been headline DJ at the Burning Man festival for four years in a row) worldwide. Stott plays loads of instruments here, including, oud, darbouq, bendir, daff, qarqaba, riqq, guitars, basses, keyboards, and even hammered dulcimer. His beats are centered not only on grooves, but on melodies and modes, harmonic equations that make their accents and their melding of Middle and Far Eastern musics with Western dance music seamless. Opener "Deep Playa" begins with a blissed-out meditational feel before the bass and keyboards wind their way in, stringed instruments are woven throughout the proceeding, and organic and electronic drums begin to permeate a shifting, spacious, double-time, dubby groove. Sonja Drakulich's vocals wail over the top, and the melody asserts itself through the mix. Other standouts include the hyperactive "Gnawa Jam," and "Le Club Lebanon," with MC Rai on vocals. The former track's electrified ef-x-laden oud is a brain melt, as are the remix of "Desert Dub" and the open loneliness of "Semma," which almost builds to a glorious explosion of energy. Eliyahu Sills' bansuri flute on "White Tara" sends this disc out in an exotic, ambient flow. Arcana is the most fully realized of Stott's recordings to date; it creates new possibilities -- and weighty arguments -- for both world fusion and global bass as still emerging musics.
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AllMusic Review by Thom Jurek