4

Boi Akih: Circles in a Square Society

Ian Patterson By

Sign in to view read count
Boi Akih: Circles in a Square Society The soul of Boi Akih—a duo, sextet, and all configurations in between— is Monica Akihary's soulful voice and guitarist Niels Brouwer's jazz/world-inflected acoustic guitar. Boi Akih has always experimented; Lagu Lagu (Bromo, 2005)—an exquisite meeting between jazz, blues and Indonesian folk—was sung in the almost extinct Haruku language of Akihary's ancestors. With Indian percussionist Sandip Bhattcharya, Boi Akih roars and sighs like a little Shakti. Innovation and adventure defines—and inspires—Boi Akih, but an album of interpretations of the alternative pop/folk culture music of the '70s—singers Joni Mitchell, David Crosby, Neil Young, Bob Marley and guitarist/singer Jimi Hendrix—is a surprise. However, like the best surprises it's an absolute delight.

Computer effects add subtle atmospherics to "Circle 5." Brouwer's circular, guitar motif has a subliminal, trance-inducing quality as Akihary's beautifully floated delivery softly seduces. Trombonist Wolter Wierbos brings gruffly lyrical counterpoint to Akihary, and the two dovetail to great effect. Drummer Kim Weemhoff's loping beat complements Brouwer's West African groove on this striking composition, one of five originals penned by the guitarist. These five musical sketches best illustrate Boi Akih's greatest stylistic innovations, exploring strikingly different soundscapes and textures.

There's no denying, though, the beauty of the covers. "Guinnevere" is a slower take than the original, with Akihary's dreamy reverie accompanied by Wierbos' empathetic yet constantly searching trombone, a barely perceptible percussive pulse and guitar of harp-like delicacy. It's a haunting performance and the second notable interpretation of that tune in a short time, following BAAN's mesmerizing instrumental version. Mitchell's "Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire" follows a similar path, though Akihary's brings a rootsy blues depth to the melody. It doesn't take a leap of imagination to hear a latter day Mitchell approaching this song from 1972 with similar intimacy.

"Circle 2" is an ambient chill-out that's as odd as it is appealing, featuring a voice reciting seemingly random numbers, like an absurdist's take on bingo. Akihary's wordless vocal and Brouwer's quietly stated electric guitar improvisations—with ghostly percussion as light as angel's hair—work a wicked charm. The vocal/guitar duet on Hendrix's "A Merman I Should Turn to Be" and the quartet's soulful intimacy on "Drifting" succeed in highlighting the poetry in the legendary guitarist's lyrics and the grace in his melodies. The same is true of the vocal/guitar duet of Young's "Old Man," a gorgeous interpretation that quietly states the chemistry fostered between Akihary and Brouwer since 1996.

Brouwer's acoustic solo, "Circle Exercise," is a minor gem built around a melody that evokes "Three Blind Mice," with the same mellifluous appeal—though minus the gory imagery—of that surreal 19th century English musical round. "Circle 4" is a bristling number, with each musician plotting an individual course—though with the same destination in mind—on the high-seas of improvisation. A softly padding, folk-flavored interpretation of Marley's "Redemption Song," peppered with slide guitar, puts a lyrical seal on a splendid recording, one that recognizes the beauty in all music, regardless of genre, epoch or language.

Track Listing: Circle 5; Guinnevere; Cold Blue Steel and Sweet Fire; Circle 2; A Merman I Should turn to Be; Drifting; Circle 3; Old Man; Circle Exercise; Circle 4; Redemption Song.

Personnel: Monica Akihary: voice; Niels Brouwer: guitars, computer, no input mixer, and world band receiver; Wolter Wierbos: trombone; Kim Weemhoff: drums.

Title: Circles in a Square Society | Year Released: 2012 | Record Label: Bromo


Tags

Related Video

comments powered by Disqus

More Articles

Read 90 Going On Amazing CD/LP/Track Review 90 Going On Amazing
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter CD/LP/Track Review Let There Be Life, Love and Laughter
by Victor L. Schermer
Published: August 21, 2017
Read L.O.T.U.S. CD/LP/Track Review L.O.T.U.S.
by Mark Corroto
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Art in the Age of Automation CD/LP/Track Review Art in the Age of Automation
by Geno Thackara
Published: August 21, 2017
Read Screen Sounds CD/LP/Track Review Screen Sounds
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: August 20, 2017
Read Rediscovered Ellington CD/LP/Track Review Rediscovered Ellington
by Troy Dostert
Published: August 20, 2017
Read "N.O. Escape" CD/LP/Track Review N.O. Escape
by C. Michael Bailey
Published: March 26, 2017
Read "Live At the Stone" CD/LP/Track Review Live At the Stone
by Karl Ackermann
Published: November 29, 2016
Read "No Secrets No Lies" CD/LP/Track Review No Secrets No Lies
by Geannine Reid
Published: July 22, 2017
Read "Alfa" CD/LP/Track Review Alfa
by Tyran Grillo
Published: March 10, 2017
Read "Rebirth" CD/LP/Track Review Rebirth
by Dan Bilawsky
Published: March 4, 2017
Read "Hope" CD/LP/Track Review Hope
by Karl Ackermann
Published: July 21, 2017

Sponsor: JANA PROJECT | LEARN MORE  

Support our sponsor

Join the staff. Writers Wanted!

Develop a column, write album reviews, cover live shows, or conduct interviews.