Ana Alcaide

La Cantiga del Fuego

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Ana Alcaide might be the first to mix the Swedish nyckelharpa with the music of her native Spain (specifically Sephardic-influenced music of Toledo), but it's a blend that works well on this, her third album. Her music's often described as the Toledo soundtrack, and there's certainly a sweep to it, both in the epic scope and the use of older instruments to create a neo-medieval sound. The closest analogue, perhaps, is Loreena McKennitt, and although their areas are very different, there's a distinctly common feel to them. Alcaide's album is a mix of traditional and original pieces, with the acoustic instruments filled out on some tracks by electronic soundscapes (created by Alcaide, who's actually a hell of a musician). There's beauty to it all, especially the closing pair of cuts, "Mikdash Intro" and "Mikdash," with text adapted from Persian poems, performed with dignified solemnity, the mix of clarinet, nyckelharpa, and voice particularly moving. It's no surprise, given the historic Islamic influence on the region, that some of the music has a North African and Middle Eastern feel at times, and Alcaide is masterful in her creation of atmosphere. Something different and a musical journey well worth taking.

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