Moon Shines at Night is a rich but simple collection of Middle Eastern songs performed by Djivan Gasparyan on the duduk (a reed-like Egyptian clarinet) with two supporting musicians. The structure for most of these songs is similar in nature, with the duduk soloing over the accompanying "drone" or foundation. Frequent Eno collaborator and guitar pioneer Michael Brook takes production credit for this release, doing a sort of Peter Gabriel-style nod to world music. Brook does exactly the right thing by providing the right acoustical setting and not much else (reminiscent of the wonderful ECM producer Manfred Eicher). Gasparyan's playing produces an equal amount of sadness and sweetness in every note, every phrase, and every song. "Sayat Nova" is especially forlorn, repeating a phrase of heavy sighs and burdened shoulders, and the ten-minute "Apricot Tree" is a contemplative pilgrimage through the desert at night. For a surprisingly subtle variation,Gasparyan substitutes vocals rather than his duduk on two tracks ("7th December 1988" and "Mother of Mine"); his vocal style is so similar to his playing that it's easy to blur the two in the ears. "Tonight" further breaks the mold by doubling up on the duduk (presumably with a studio overdub), and the harmonies are lovely to behold. Uninitiated ears may take a stronger liking to this one in particular (all three minutes of it), since it follows more Western parameters. It is unfortunate that the three other musicians aren't given credit for any particulars; there is a legitimate degree of it due here, owed in equal parts to Khandvat Tuner, Me Lotzazrue Intz, and Do Noritz Ekeles. These three take turns being the foundation that Gasparyan floats over so beautifully. Although Brook has less to do, his presence carries weight. This makes a noteworthy example of world music without being flamboyant or overly exotic. Simply graceful.
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AllMusic Review by Glenn Swan