New Moon

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Abderraamane Abdelli is a Kabyl Berber whose musical odyssey has led him to create a unique fusion of cultures on New Moon. On a Berber-Arabic music base he builds using Spanish, American Indian, and African elements from South America. Then he adds a touch of the Ukraine with the bandura, which is a 50-string zither that makes a very pretty, harp-like sound. Producer Thierry Van Roy sits in with some unobtrusive keyboards. Overall, one could say the music sounds like acoustic rai. The songs are hypnotic, with fast North African-cum-Latin beats and midtempo singing. Traditional Berber music does not use high or low notes, so Abdelli mostly stays in the middle of his range, giving his vocals a chanted quality. The range of instruments -- from the South American charango, (which sounds like a cross between a ukulele and a guitar), to the Algerian bendir (a large frame drum with a snare) -- gives the music real flavor. Unfortunately -- and possibly because of the music itself, but probably due to the album's over-production -- everything has been smoothed out a little too much, with some of the distinctive sounds too suppressed in the mix. If one is willing to turn the volume way up, the sound works. Otherwise New Moon amounts to relaxing, contemplative music that is, at least, too authentic to be dismissed as new age.

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