Produced by world music scholar (and former Grateful Dead percussionist) Mickey Hart, Mondo Head documents a series of performances by Japanese taiko ensemble Kodo. Recorded in California and Japan across the spring and summer of 2001, the album features an airy reproduction of Kodo's massive sound. Though taiko music is comprised predominantly of percussion instruments, Kodo's sound is filled with the organic sounds of flutes, bells, and human voices. The result is a lushly dense melodic tangle that works in and around the meticulously marked beats, inseparable from the rhythm in places. The music is disciplined and energetic though, at times, seems far removed from the force-of-nature power the band is attempting to achieve. In places, the music sounds positively Westernized, with smooth vocal chants on the opening "Berimabu Jam" and "Maracatü," as well as with the puzzling addition of blues harmonica player Charlie Musselwhite on "Echo Bells." Musselwhite's contribution fits surprisingly well in places, but often sounds like Howard Levy's lite work with Béla Fleck and the Flecktones.
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AllMusic Review by Jesse Jarnow