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With ISHQ, Paranoise's second album, the group transformed a novelty into a fully integrated fusion of genres. "Private Power," the first opus, attempted a blend of hard rock/prog rock with world music elements. This time around it has become impossible to strip the ethnic music samples from the rock frames; Jim Matus' writing has grown to adopt the music forms he is being inspired by. The resulting music is still firmly anchored in hard rock: crunchy guitar riffs (Matus), heavy drums (Geoffrey Brown) and bass (Bob Laramie), gutsy vocals (Thorne Palmer), and a violin (Rohan Gregory) to bring a prog rock flavor. The group is surrounded by a supporting cast of singers and percussionists, and most importantly Matus' wide selection of samples, from Afghan to Bulgarian, Moroccan, Kenyan, and even Pakistani songs. Two tracks -- "Superimposition/Kafi" and "Overmind Over Matter/Allah Maula Ali Dam Dam" -- two very strong moments, are constructed on pieces by Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan. The first album featured funky rhythms; this one focuses more on African/Arabic percussion and leaves more room to ethnic singing and traditional songs instead of rock songs proper. "Ishq," "I Own," and "I'm a User/Pilentzee Pee" fall into this last category, everything else is at least half traditional. The political engagement remains as strong as on the previous album, with texts by Noam Chomsky (on corporate propaganda), Vandana Shiva (on the economic and ethic implications of genetic manipulation), and Terrence McKenna (on egocentric materialistic consciousness) embedded in three songs and reproduced in the booklet. The virtuosity of the musicians (this is one of the strongest hard rock rhythm sections of the decade), exciting vocal performances, and a highly successful synthesis of traditions into a rock idiom make ISHQ a must-have for any music fan with an ear open for the third world and concerns about globalization. Strongly recommended.

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