Carolyn Hume & Paul May / Carolyn Hume

Flames Undressed By Water

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The title of Carolyn Hume and Paul May's third album seems to echo Keiji Haino and Tatsuya Yoshida's Until Water Grasps Flame, released only a few months before. But while the Japanese team chose a term that implies the use of force, the English went for something a lot more sensual, perfectly tailored to their music. This album continues to explore the same territory marked by the previous two CDs, especially By Lakes Abandoned. Hume moves one more step away from the piano by using more keyboards; whenever she does this, the music gets into a new age feel that is not always convincing. May's finesse accounts for much of the excitement, his laid-back grooves always refined and tasteful. Bernd Rest adds dreamy guitar lines to two tracks, Marcus Cummins a soprano sax lead in the ECM-jazzy "Pot Meth." But the duo is at its best when playing with singer Sonja Galsworthy: "Untitled" is a haunting song without words, the kind of piece that screams for a spot in a movie soundtrack. The opening number, "Backward Prophet," with Hume at the piano, is as good as anything else on their previous albums, but the lack of true progression between older opuses and this one prevents it from standing out. Flames Undressed By Water is better approached as subtle comfortable music -- even though "comfy" is not an adjective usually associated with the Leo Records label.

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