Super Ethnic Flavor

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Only a Japanese band could title its album Super Ethnic Flavor, but the fact is that Molca's music actually has a super ethnic flavor. The quintet leaves no frontiers uncrossed and no instrument untouched. Exclusively acoustic, the instrumentation is comprised of flute, fiddle, guitar, piano/bass, and percussion, but each musician plays several versions of his or her instrument, according to the style du jour. The palette is particularly rich in the percussion and strings departments. The ears of Molca's members are mostly turned toward Eastern Europe and South America, although there are also a few touches of French musette and American bluegrass. Titles like "Balkan Dawn," "Armadillo Goes to the Caribbean," and "Bulgar Dance" are self-explanatory. Molca do jump from one ethnic flavor to another, but there is actually very little fusion involved. The group sticks very close to the moves and clichés of the chosen style. For instance, "There's a Fire in the Kitchen!" is a bona fide klezmer tune (although it lacks a bit of urgency in the delivery) and "My Friend" is an Antonio Carlos Jobim knockoff. The group is crossbreeding cultures through the instruments, putting bouzouki in a Balkan dance, for instance, but avoids blending styles. At times, as in "Black Maria" and "Bulgar Dance," Molca take a slightly different direction, closer to the folk leanings of Jethro Tull, and the use of several toy instruments and ukuleles in the closing "Allo'Bonjour!" takes the group very close to the naïve signature of Frank Pahl or the Pascals. The musicianship is exemplary, even though some musicians are clearly more at ease with certain styles than others (Hikari Soma's Brazilian flute solo in "My Friend" is clumsy at best). Despite a certain lack of originality, Super Ethnic Flavor makes a pleasant and very accessible listen.

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