Cleveland, Barry - Volcano

Year of Release: 2004
Label: Supersaturated Records
Catalog Number: n/a
Format: CD
Total Time: 51:42:00

Cultural borrowing is a curious thing. More often than not, indigenous musical traditions get distorted through the lens of the foreign borrower, and the results thereof are simply unpredictable. One may end up with an annoyingly pretentious collection of garbage, which has nothing going for it save the novelty of whatever material has been borrowed. On the other hand, one may end up with a graciously pleasant amalgam, a marriage that regardless of the specific balance is more than just listenable. Barry Cleveland's latest offering, Volcano, is an album that combines Haitian percussive traditions with Cleveland and company's own electric creative vision, thus constituting a prime candidate for one of the aforementioned outcomes. So which is it? Does it suck? Is it good? Due to the overabundant existence of similar projects that should never have seen the light of day, yours truly can only thank God: It's good.

Volcano sees the polyrhythmic structures of Haiti subdued and metamorphosed through soundscapes that alternate between darkness and light; between King Crimson-like minimalism and lusher, more drawn-out textures; between tight interlocking grooves and loose improvisation. And while this might evoke either a cinematic or an ambient character in the minds of readers, and especially in those of ones familiar with Cleveland's previous work, the tracks herein are rather far from both approaches. Contrasting with previous Cleveland recordings, this album's main strength is the fact that each instrumental has a definite purpose, a strong sense of direction, and a well-defined character. Parts occur exactly when they have to, solos glide through the underlying textures smoothly, and save for literally a pair of tracks, and things never go on for too long. Oh, and don't forget the hypnotic repetition that occurs whenever a groove is firmly established; it's one of the most enjoyable aspects of the entire thing.

The principal credit, however, might have to go to Norbert Stachel, whose woodwind and saxophone playing sprinkles the entire proceedings with just the right amount of magic. Make no mistake though. Bassist Michael Manring, percussionist Michael Pluznick, and guitarist Cleveland himself are just as vital, Cleveland shining in particular when he pulls out Fripp-inspired guitar lines and effects. And save for the monotonous flow of "Obsidian Night" and "Dervish Circles," the latter which is further spoiled by Maxwell Taylor's overdramatic vocals, it is a winning combination. The gorgeously upbeat "Volcano" and "Rhumbatism," as well as the tense but sensuous darkness of "Ophidian Waves" are proof enough: if all cultural borrowers decided to learn a thing or two from Cleveland's vision, the music world would probably be a better place.

Makanda (4:00) / Tongue Of Fire (2:57) / Secret Prescriptions Of The Bedroom (3:12) / Black Diamond Express (1:48) / Ophidian Waves (2:59) / Obsidian Night (2:52) / Volcano (2:00) / Rhumbatism (2:30) / Dervish Circles (2:44) / Dark Energy (4:32)

Barry Cleveland - guitars, ebow
Michael Pluznick - percussion
Michael Manring - bass
Norbert Stachel - flutes, piccolo, ewi, clarinets, saxophones
Michael Masley - bowhammer cymbalom, reed slide, Lokota slide, phenix
Lygia Ferra - vocal
Arthur Hill, Chris Walker, and Kim Atkinson - percussion
Maxwell Taylor - voice

First Edition: The Audion Sampler (1986) Mythos (1986) The Best Of Both Worlds: The Second Audion Sampler (1987) Volunteary Dreaming (1990) Cloud Chamber - Dark Matter (1998) Memory & Imagination (2003) Volcano (2004)

Genre: Other

Origin US

Added: January 31st 2005
Reviewer: Marcelo Silveyra
Artist website:
Hits: 948
Language: english


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