Scorched Lips

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One of the more overtly cultural/religious releases on John Zorn's self-described "Jewish music" label Tzadik, Zohara's Scorched Lips is a work of beauty and strangeness. One point of comparison is Diamanda Galás' Masque of the Red Death trilogy in its mix of the devotional and the carnal, but this is a far less confrontational and deliberately unsettling project. Singer Zahava Seewald has as huge and expressive vocal instrument as Galás, and as eclectic a set of influences; on "Then My Soul Cried Out," Seewald spits out syllables in a style reminiscent of Cathy Berberian's work with Luciano Berio, but on the very next track, "From Day to Night," her vocal melody sounds like it could have come from an old Yiddish folk song. Seewald's texts are taken from Hebrew poetry, both centuries old and contemporary, and they're sung against a similarly wide-ranging group of settings that combine folk, free jazz, ambient electronica, and experimental noise in ever-shifting proportions. Equally capable of passages of haunting beauty and violent aggression, Scorched Lips is a surprisingly easy album for even a casual listener to get his or her head around.

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