Sam Popat

Little Buddha Cafe

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There's something ironic about an ambient CD from an Asian-themed café in the heart of Las Vegas -- not so much the sound of co-existence, but two cultures clashing, the money in competition with the spirit. But it's the spirit that DJ Sam Popat aims for on this, which is full of Eastern promise -- or at least slightly Eastern-tinged promise, enough to hint at the exotic without disorienting the listener. And that, really, is the problem with this disc. It's like being on a package tour -- you only see the bits they show you and there's no chance to discover anything raw from yourself. And the bits this CD shows you can be lightly jazzy, like the trumpet work that's there in both "The Graceful Bamboo" and Bill Laswell's "Life Space Death." There are faint touches of plainsong in Sagarmatha's "Le Sommet du Ciel," but it conjures up the chant of Enigma rather than any 12th century monks -- a sign of the reference points the music operates from. A remix of a Dissidenten track offers some hope, bringing a more ominous darkness to the proceedings and stopping the music from seeming like aural wallpaper; its possessed female voice definitely jars the smoothness -- but only for a while. All is absorbed back into the calm, and by the time of the next track, Richard Les Crees' "Bahia," all is sun, sand, and surf again and the world is a wonderful place. As something pleasant -- an ambient record with vaguely exotic aims -- this works well. But world music it's definitely not.

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