Purple Passage


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Purple Passage Review

by Carol Wright

This third album by French group Uman (a Native American word meaning "earth forces"), brother and sister Danielle Jean (vocals) and Didier Jean (keyboards). Purple Passage isn't Native American-inspired, but you'll recognize shades of Enigma's "mea culpa" vocal, Deep Forest and its pygmy calls, French film music of the '60s, Latin club music, Manhatten Transfer, Middle Eastern dancing ("Arabian Nights"), scat singing, the song from Black Orpheus, Lyle Mays, and even Vangelis. Most songs groove to an ambient club trance-dance pulse: strong beats, but heavy on the sultry side. Danielle's voice, used mostly as vocalese or scat, is quintessential in all ranges. Her breathy softness is intimate and enticing, yet she soars with operatic brilliance. Her voice, often working in conjunction as an additional instrumental voice rather than soloist, is often overdubbed or altered to give more sonic textures. She is, in one word, alluring. "An Obscure Clearness" diverts from the club scene a bit. The solo keyboard work of Didier Jean is a pensive inner musing. "On the Confidence Track" also delves to some depths; an almost dangerous and careening rhythm track (with fancy jazz improvisations on keyboards) underlies Danielle's "ooo" vocals. At the end, a ghostly cry breaks through to new horizons, an Oriental music box world where her carefree "oooo" takes on charming overtones. "Dream Stealer" begins with a magical space music swirl of tones, then separates into several hypnotic layers of rhythms, textures, and sounds. French words are spoken by a man and woman, echoed as if in a dream; the creaking sounds made me feel that my world was shattering. Alas...the only remedy for that is to start the album all over again. Though you'll surely hear musical influences of others, this album is thoroughly appealing, sophisticated, and sensual, all at once. The album has grown on me the more I listen to it. Adding to the album's value is the artwork by ZAD, a woman painter who often works with Uman. Each song has a painting, in the style of Picasso or Gaughin. Excellent album.

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