Martin Kvisvic and Tara Tavi of Amps for Christ teamed up in Auto Da Fe to mess up with the geopolitics of our planet. Using a brilliantly mismatched arsenal of traditional instruments, the two of them shatter cultural and political frontiers. Through the course of the 18 tracks on The Spectre, the listener is treated to guzheng (a Chinese zither), Tibetan cymbals, tambur, balalaika (a Russian lute), bouzouki, and various bowed instruments, in addition to gothic harp, tablas (performed by guest musicians), and more conventional (i.e., Western) instruments. The songs -- all original, it seems, but there are no songwriting credits -- mimic folk styles to add to the cultural confusion. For instance, "Past Times" sounds very much like an old English song, except that Tavi's voice is backed by guzheng. Following a similar logic, "Ne'er Do Will" could be a skip-rope rhyme, "Huar Weishenme" could be a Jewish lament, and "The Spectre" might be a frantic Eastern European instrumental tune. But the instrumentation always sends such issues out the window. What is left is this duo's unbridled creativity, their knowledgeable disregard toward tradition, and Tara Tavi's voice, at times charming, haunting, or scary ("Undun"). Several guests contribute to the sound palette, including members of Man Is the Bastard. The overall attitude is definitely that of the underground folk scene, but ignores its improvisational/jam aspect; The Spectre is thoroughly composed and focuses on catchy -- if unpredictably arranged -- tunes. A find to treasure and one of the truly surprising albums of 2006.
AllMusic Review by François Couture