The decade-long musical project of multi-instrumentalist Olaf Parusel and a changing crew of side musicians continues with Zal, a distinctly elegant album in the vein of such romantic neo-classical/electronic bands as Attrition and particularly In the Nursery. The dark ambience of Black Tape for a Blue Girl is also present, notably in a cover of that band's "I Wish You Could Smile," but with an arrangement that often suggests what Philip Glass might have done had he lived in 19th century Europe rather than America 100 years later. The atmosphere of shadows and beautiful melancholy via sweeping, slow strings and a restrained, mysterious calm comes not only from Parusel, but also from his collaborators, notably cellist Christiane Fischer and singer Mandy Bernhardt. Her high, clear voice has the training needed for Parusel's work, and she does a fine job throughout. Intriguingly, Parusel steers clear of creating any lyrics for the album, instead relying solely on the work of poets and writers from around the world and over time. Everyone from early Christian philosopher Boethius to James Joyce and Rainer Maria Rilke get the nod, not to mention such familiar names as Shakespeare and Verlaine. The latter's "Chanson D'Automne" gets a striking setting that -- more than most songs on the album -- very distinctly recalls In the Nursery's own efforts (helped in part by the participation of Barbara Uhle on oboe, who contributes irregularly throughout the album). A variety of instrumentals throughout Zal let Parusel indulge to full effect with or without his collaborators, perhaps most notably on "Winter," which for all the implied chill of the title is a fairly active arrangement, perhaps suggesting a last dance on a frozen pond before the new year comes.
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