The dan bau is a traditional Vietnamese monochord instrument made of a single-steel string stretched over a gourd. One end is attached to a piece of wood equipped with a flexible handle. The player plucks the string at its harmonic nodes and uses the handle to vary tension -- and thus pitch. Now, Pham Duc Thanh has more than one string to his bow and this is by no means a solo dan bau disc, although the instrument does get the leading part on all 12 tracks. But Thanh also plays a wide range of Vietnamese instruments, from flutes and lutes to percussion. His interpretations of Vietnamese folk songs are very personal and don't exclude elements of Western music. "Fishing," for instance, features a rocking rhythm section played on small percussion instruments that resemble the junk percussion occasionally found in Tom Waits' songs of the '90s. The multiple an bau parts in the same piece are also strongly reminiscent of Hans Reichel's daxophone "operetta," Yuxo: same mischievous melodies, childlike fun and genuine invention. "Work Song" also stands out thanks to some very wild note bending. The sounds of Vietnam are found everywhere on this disc, but they haven't been mummified, they live and thrive in a stimulating environment. In short: Thanh's music manages to sound rooted in folk yet feel modern, without sacrificing to the Gods of Modernity or Music Market. Highly stimulating, fun and rewarding.
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AllMusic Review by François Couture