Shawn Lee

Strings and Things: Ubiquity Studio Sessions, Vol. 3

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The third volume in Shawn Lee's impressive Ping Pong Orchestra series is perhaps its zenith. Strings and Things: Ubiquity Studio Sessions, Vol. 3, featuring 15 tracks to accompany as-yet-unmade films, Lee delves deeply into Bollywood and sitar groovescapes, finger-popping funk, and the strange, tense, atmospheric soundscapes that have become a near trademark. The smoking "Greg's Theme" is a fine example as swathes of tense, driven strings swirl around pulsing, hypnotic marimbas and killer drumbreaks. The funky action-scene-inspired "In a Hurry" crosses funk with Indian sarod and layered, twanging sitars. A drum kit, tablas, congas, and djembes ooze and breathe ecstasy. "Oslo Morning" begins with a sanguine harp, sparely shimmering in the foreground, quickly covered in droning, dripping strings and a sparse electric guitar. The strings weave a magical, pastoral landscape full of trees, morning mist rising from the grass in the fields, and the hint of sunlight beginning to shine through the clouds. The harp plays counterpoint to all this and if it feels like Percy Faith for a moment, perhaps it's really Bernard Hermann, because the drama in the last seconds is so utterly shattering the listener could be left gasping. The culture clash in "Weird Waltz" pits Bollywood and Lalo Schifrin against Ennio Morricone and Bruno Nicolai before the funky "Miso Horny Pt. 1 & 2," takes its groove from tables and a big, big horn section before a looped bass line from Can's "Father Does Not Yell" and -- you guessed it -- a wall of sitars come into angle the whole progression toward the surreal. Yes, you do get the picture: Strings and Things is a hotbed of mischievous imagination, intense focus, and crazy mad technique, as well as loads of fun. Fans of either -- or both -- of the first two volumes have only had their appetites whetted; Strings and Things saves the best for last.

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