Cosmic Tree

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Speaking of the realm where the higher concerns of the soul blend into likable grooves and melodies, on Cosmic Tree Yulara's keyboardist Robert Matt and saxophonist/flutist Annie Hilsberg find endlessly fascinating, often otherworldly sonic and rhythmic treasures on their seductive musical experiment, testing the quest-filled hypothesis "What does a tree feel like growing up?" A simple liner inscription from the Buddha covering the way to happiness provides the relentlessly uplifting context for this never-ending synthesis of sounds and effects from around the world; you don't simply listen to these mosaics of meditation, percussion, and American trip-hop, you dissect. Stripped down, some of the tunes are pretty straightforward -- "Atanka -- The Sun" would be a shuffling, sax-driven cool funk piece if not for the staccato chanting by a shaman woman from Borneo. With its bouncy wah-wah guitar, "Rain on Fire" would be the ultimate '70s soul tune, only it features the spellbinding weave of a mouth percussionist. Ditto "Narayana" and its Tibetan monk mantra. And if you've never heard a Peruvian wren or bearded seal before, Yulara shine the way. It's almost as if Matt and Hilsberg threw an R&B-jazz-funk party, and invited the whole Eastern Hemisphere to show up whenever the rhythm struck its fancy.

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