Studio Pagol

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Serendipity Review

by Rick Anderson

Pagol means crazy in Bengali, and the debut album from this Belgian group is, indeed, a rather crazy mixture of cultural influences -- Moroccan elements from Largo members Marc Van Eyck and Philippe Boulon (not to mention singer/dancers Laïla Amezian and Madiha Figuigui), European flavors from guitarist Pierre Vervloesem and programmer Renaud Hoebem, Bengali singing courtesy of Bapi Das Baul and John Litton-Baroi, and other far-flung elements from guest musicians from a multitude of places and cultures. This is the kind of project that can as easily go very wrong as very right, collapsing upon itself into an undifferentiated mush of good-hearted but uninspired multiethnic noodling. Studio Pagol avoids that trap, though, by keeping its eye firmly on the beat -- luckily for the listener, this is primarily music for dancing rather than the soundtrack to a multiculti sermon. That means that the chiming synths and Figuigui's haunting vocals on "Agi" are kept bubbling with a jittery drum'n'bass groove, the gorgeous melody of "Zena" is counterbalanced by a dark and funky rhythmic pattern, and when the group covers the Beatles' "Tomorrow Never Knows" the guitar sounds like a bagpipe and there's a Qawwali-sounding vocal break in the middle. (The album's hidden 17th track is a remix of this song.) The ideas here aren't really new or revolutionary, but they sure are fun.

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