Ekova Heaven's Dust (Six Degrees), Ekova Soft Breeze & Tsunami Breaks (Six Degrees)

Heaven's Dust, and Soft Breeze & Tsunami Breaks (Six Degrees)

Ekova

Heaven's Dust (Six Degrees)

Ekova

Soft Breeze & Tsunami Breaks (Six Degrees)

There's an upper echelon of singers whose ex-pression is not limited to words found in the dictionary. Instead, these artists -- Mimi Goese (Hugo Largo), Marie Daulne (Zap Mama), Lisa Gerrard (Dead Can Dance), and Elizabeth Fraser (Cocteau Twins) -- create a language of invented words that flows like phrases from Sonny Rollins' horn. With these two albums, Ekova's chanteuse Dierdre Dubois now joins these otherworldly voices. American-born Dubois teamed with Algerian guitarist/lutist Mehdi Haddab and Iranian percussionist Arach Khalatbari in Paris in 1994, the release of their debut on Sony Music France following shortly thereafter. Thanks to San Francisco indie label Six Degrees, North America can now digest Ekova's delicious timbres. Heaven's Dust features an energetic melange of Middle Eastern percussion, North African lute, and Dubois' heavenly voice, which draws from both the Celtic and Middle Eastern traditions, creating a wholly unique style rather than a confused pastiche. Opener "Starlight in Daden" shows the influence of Cocteau Twin Fraser, but when the North African oud blends with forceful Persian percussion, the result is like nothing else. Dubois scats effortlessly over Haddab's oud runs in "Ditama," while Khalatbari's singing and clarinet on "Sabura" stand tall on their own. Even though Haddab and Khalatbari's creativity makes Heaven's Dust memorable, most ears will be taken with Dubois' singing, absolutely flooring on the mournful Mediterranean blues of "Sebrendita." Even with repeated listening, Heaven's Dust is powerfully impressionistic and emotive. With that in mind, Ekova asked a cadre of well-known European knob-twisters to create dance tracks from Heaven's Dust. The 70-minute result, Soft Breeze & Tsunami Breaks, is a surprisingly even affair given the fact that each of the 13 tracks was remixed by a different sonic sculptor. At 10 minutes, the Farmakit remix of "Termoine" is pure dance, while the reconstruction of traditional Irish song "In My Prime" is the theoretical confluence of Dead Can Dance and DJ Shadow. The digital brinkmanship on "La Nef Des Fous," on the other hand, results in a too-dense instrumental maelstrom weighted down by its own experimentation. And the translation of "Sister" doesn't differ much from the original, save for a misplaced heavy-metal guitar break. Still, it's a testament to Ekova to remix an album as fine as Heaven's Dust, especially when it results in ultra danceability of Soft Breeze & Tsunami Breaks. Together, the two albums successfully transverse the overlapping colors of world music, exotica, and trip-hop, capturing a talented and creative band in two moods.

(Heaven's Dust) ****

(Soft Breeze) *** EkovaEkovaHeaven's DustSix Degrees

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