For some instrumental artists, song and album titles are simply an afterthought, but Incendio -- whose name, the Italian translation of "fire," perfectly reflects the band's powerful ensemble energy -- makes sure that every track tells a story. The Los Angeles-based foursome follows their critically acclaimed 2000 debut, Misterioso, with Illumination, telling a tale not only of creative evolution but also an overall mood swing from darker, mysterious worldbeat edges to a more groove-intensive multiethnic vibe. Building upon Incendio's established modern-pop flamenco sensibilities, hypnotic drum and ambient loops surround the dynamic core of Jim Stubblefield's and J.P. Durand's nylon-string guitars with an irresistible trance vibe. Although Illumination is technically Incendio's second recording, the members in many ways feel it's their first release as a fully realized band. The sessions that produced Misterioso were originally intended as a fourth solo project for Stubblefield, who hired Durand and his bassist, wife Liza Carbe -- veteran TV composers and owners of a studio called Strangetree Productions -- to produce, and Joe Shotwell to play drums and percussion. Just as Incendio intended to call the disc Illumination, the collection from the get-go creates a dynamic, spiritually galvanizing experience that comes across, as Stubblefield says, "like coming out of the darkness and flicking on a switch." The swaying sitar hypnosis launching "Prajapati" (named for the Hindu creation god) clues the listener into the exotic and mystical nature of the journey, while the throbbing dance-trance groove and shimmering dual flamenco guitar melody brilliantly blends global excitement with urban sensibilities. "Rambla Pacifica" floats a whimsical, seductive guitar melody over a cool, rolling groove, while "Capetown Juerga" gives off a hint of South-African guitar energy amidst a modern, synth-based groove. The title track begins with a film score-like sweep, incorporates wailing electronic voices, and then eases into a unique mix of shuffling hip-hop rhythms and a folksy, flute-enhanced guitar melody. "Los Ladrones" means "the thieves" in Spanish, reflecting the chromatic sequence within the tune that sounds a bit sneaky and James Bond-like; the song weaves spacey synth sounds with galloping guitars. "Vamos Ya" means "Let's Go," a perfect title for the mix of organic guitar and percussion and modern machine-generated dance grooves. "Sophia" is the disc's first ballad, a passionate tribute to Carbe and Durand's departed rottweiler. "La Corrida" introduces a touch of bluesy organ over loping guitars and a locomotive click-clack groove, while "Caipirinha" is named after a popular Brazilian drink and expresses the band's affection for the music of that country.
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AllMusic Review by Jonathan Widran