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Hugh Marsh: Hugmars

Dan McClenaghan By

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There's nothing careful in Canadian violinist Hugh Marsh's artistry. My first reaction to Hugmars ran parallel to my thoughts on an initial encounter with a Frank Zappa album back in '67, an ear-opening experience that had me mumbling: "This is really weird."

Hugmars opens up with "Rocket #9," scratching to life on a cosmic static that gives way to a brief spoken-word interlude by Kokayi, "One day it will happen, could be happenin' now, a voice from another dimension..." that leads into an electro-groove flowing smooth behind James "Blood" Ulmer singing a mantra: "Rocket number nine taking off for the planet, to the planet Venus." Then hip-hopper Kokayi raps a gusher of words as a prelude to Hugh Marsh, whose violin is wired up to about ten thousand volts, spewing out an electron wash of glowing sound.

"The Crossing" bubbles in on a turbulent sea of Afro-percussion behind Marsh's sweet bowing; that gives way to Ursala Rucker's eloquent poetic indictment against the early American slave trade. "Om" features Gregoire Maret's harmonica singing sweetly around Marsh's luminescent washes; and "Let Me Have It All" gets into a groove and showcases James "Blood" Ulmer on vocals.

Hugh Marsh came to my attention on Barry Romberg's Random Access discs—parts one through five, so far. Marsh's sound has an expansive and ineffable plugged-in mystic quality. Often, it's a sound a blind listen wouldn't identify as violin—you cock an ear and think synthesizer, with a soul. Hugmars has a distinct world music feeling, with a conglomeration of Old World percussion behind the distinctly 21st Century approach.

Forget about categories, and don't expect to hear a musical artist being careful on Hugmars. This is strange stuff that opens ears. Nobody out there's doing anything like it.

Track Listing: Rocket #9; The Crossing; Let Me Have It All; Violin Invocation #2; Mowgli: The Balloon Song; Om; Sugarcane's Gone; Violin Vocation #1;

Personnel: Hugh Marsh: violin, ring mod violin, Clavinet, vibes, Pizz baritone violin, train violin, violin loop capture, buzz box loop, Ghost Harm violin, Korg triton, MC505 loop, MXR PT violin; James "Blood" Ulmer: vocals, phone call; Gregoire Maret: harmonica; Kokayi: spoken word; Andy Milne: piano; Ursala Rucker: poetry; Rich Brown, Roberto Occhipinti: bass; Mark Kelso, Dafnis Prieto: drums; Pedro Martinez: vocal, bata; Tanya Tagaq: throat singing; Maximinio Duquesne, Pancho Quinot, Lucimi,Marcos Diaz Skull, Lazaro Rizo: percussion; The Radio and Loneliness Hornz: Kevin Turcotte: trumpet; Phil Dweyer: tenor saxophone; John Johnson: bass clarinet

Title: Hugmars | Year Released: 2006 | Record Label: Cool Papa Records


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