Mar de Sueños

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It's rare that an instrumental artist can be almost as easily identified by his album artwork as by his powerful musical stylings, but it's hard to resist all those romantic, impressionistic paintings that are part of every CD package by veteran nuevo flamenco guitarist Armik. The vibrant, ultra-melodic, and rhythmically diverse tracks on Mar de Suenos are full of his trademark candlelight, slow dancing, brass, percussion, and speedy riffs as always -- and combine to create a sweet and inspiring travelogue. There's nothing blue about "Azul," the sizzling, plucky horn-drenched opening track that bursts out of the gate like a highly caffeinated mariachi band. Armik then sails gently across the waves on the title track and into a loping gait toward the swaying "Palmas de Oro." "Puentes" spices things up with a smoldering electro-acoustic guitar as a foundation behind the gentler strumming. Later, Armik goes island hopping, inviting you to a jubilant dance on the French Polynesian isle of "Moorea" and a sweet, laid-back evening in the Mediterranean on the closing solo reflection, "Ibiza." Closer to home, the guitarist captures the sunny but easygoing charms and Spanish-inflected history of California's coastal wonder on "Santa Barbara." As a whole, it's yet another picture perfect blast of exotic and happy charm by one of world and new age music's most dependable masters.

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