Richard Anstey

Aromatic Journey

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This appears to be Richard Anstey's first solo album, self-released on his imprint one2one (soon to be renamed Blue Minor). Inspired in part by a 13-year stay in Tel Aviv (Israel), it is meant to retrace the Spice Road, the route traders in aromatics followed centuries ago. It stretched from India to Persia and Arabia and through the desert to Israel, ending at the port of Gaza where the goods were embarked on ships. Anstey's music, which largely fits the new age category, is first and foremost Occidental in nature. A calm, spacy blend of keyboard melodies and programmed beats, it leaves room for light interventions by real instruments, mostly bass (Anstey's primary instrument back in his days as a free jazz player), guitars, bass flute (by Adam Szydel), and percussion (by Abe Laboriel Jr., Eric Boseman, and Bob Wilson), plus many sound library samples. They bring variety in sounds and colors and a touch of "ethnicity," but the music only suggests the lands it refers to, never moving deeper into local tradition. In fact, one hardly feels any geographical evolution in the trip as the ethnic elements remain the same throughout. Because of that, Aromatic Journey is disappointing, especially when compared to Anstey's next album, 2000 Years in the Footsteps of Jesus, which goes beyond colorful cultural appropriation. As it is, the album flows nicely, making sure to never confront the listener with his or her ignorance of Middle Eastern music.

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