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Baraka Review

by Jonathan Widran

Essentially the duo of composers and multi-instrumentalists Robby Longley and Ken Minardi, Baraka very successfully blends a slew of worldbeat sounds, new age meditative elements, and gently jazzy melodies with a mix of electronic and organic instruments from the East and West. A listing of each member's instrument racks offers an idea of the wild possibilities here. Longley plays flamenco, graphite classical electric guitars, quarto and faoud electric sitar, and incidental percussion; Minardi plays piano, organs, and flute, and does orchestrations. The multi-movement opening track "Inception" sets the tone for this album being connected to the unexpected. It begins with pure ambience, a darkening "sky" with only a lonesome trumpet; then a gong rings in a whole rhythmic section of tribal intensity -- flutes, guitars, and a wailing female vocal. Then an orchestral swell sweeps in and Minardi mixes an hypnotic piano melody with various synthesizer harmony lines; for sake of comparison, the Eastern flavors bring to mind the mystical touch of Keiko Matsui and the Japanese spice of Hiroshima. Some tunes are less exotic and busy. "Berceuse" elegantly twines acoustic piano and harp around a host of heavenly voices that sound synthesized; it's a gentle meditation with an almost filmic quality in the midst of a denser forest. Some of those forest sounds ring in literally at the beginning of "Wild Life" before a festive jig-like melody takes over. Overall, a very rich tapestry of world and new age sounds. The dark packaging, mythic cover imagery, and lack of any clue as to what the music might be may hinder seekers from giving this the chance it deserves.

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