1 Giant Leap

1 Giant Leap

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The global village shrinks down to a single neighborhood in this ambitious project. Rhythm is the road that runs through it all, drawing residents from most of the corners of the world; odd, though, that with legions gathered from India, Africa, New Zealand, Europe, and the U.S., no one from South or Latin America, or from any Native American cultures, joined the party. Even so, producers Duncan Bridgeman and Jamie Catto accomplish a miracle of sorts by traveling to far-flung places and recording dozens of singers and musicians. Each artist contributes parts to one or another song, which are subsequently arranged into often-dazzling pastiches on frameworks of sensuous rhythm. The results are quite extraordinary: On "The Way You Dream" Michael Stipe's vocal floats into a flurry of jungle beats, which are animated by furious hand-drumming and sweetened by New Zealand flute (putorino) and Mandinka harp (kora). These elements melt together in total harmony, as if these disparate musicians had grown up playing together. 1 Giant Leap surprises constantly in this way, yet Bridgeman and Catto are apparently trying to make a point beyond music. The fact that the recipe for the human organism (70 percent water, 18 percent carbon, five percent nitrogen, two percent calcium) appears on the back cover suggests that the moral has something to do with the universality of mankind. Another reading is possible: If musicians are going to communicate over undeniable barriers, pop music -- arguably the simplistic distillation of all that culture has to offer -- is, for better or worse, the lingua franca.

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