Vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Jen Shyu's Sounds and Cries of the World is both raw and sophisticated, fiercely compelling yet intimately fragile and, above all, terrifyingly beautiful. Her sixth album as a leader, it is a collection of seven original compositions and three folk melodies all inspired by the traditions of Korea, Indonesia and East Timor.
The exquisitely realized music balances the spontaneous and the choreographed resulting in a superbly dramatic effect. On the dreamlike "Moxa," for instance, Shyu and her band-mates create an impressionistic ambience. Bassist Thomas Morgan's pizzicato falls like rain drops while drummer Dan Weiss lets loose rolling thunderous beats to haunting effect. Shyu's ethereal and plaintive singing remains at the core of the tune delivered with sublime poetry.
The undulating and cinematic "Bloom's Mouth Rushed In" opens with Shyu's evocative voice and hypnotic instrumental vamps. Trumpeter Ambrose Akinmusire adds muted color with his long, lilting lines while violist Mat Maneri makes his strings sing wistfully. Shyu's expressive vocal range matches the eloquence and wit of the lyrics. Akinmusire echoes Shyu with his ardent wails while Maneri's viola moans emotively in response. Gradually Weiss rumbles and Akimnusire's horn screams with fervor. Maneri bows frantically while Morgan underscores the passionate melee with deep, dark reverberations. Above this gripping and spirited cacophony rise Shyu's triumphant vocals.
Perhaps the tragic "Song for Naldo" demonstrates the impressive range and multiple layers of Shyu's performance best. Shyu delivers the gut wrenching words describe horrifying events with fluent articulation, restrained rage and lament. Brimming with a storm of emotion her intonation remains musically flawless. Sparse instrumental refrains underscore the poignancy of the piece.
Shyu also plays a variety of instruments. In fact her percussive piano chords emphasize her fiery incantations on the contemplative and fervent "Rai Nakukun Ba Dadauk Ona." Maneri engages first Shyu then Akimnusire in intense and acerbic duets while Weiss and Morgan percolate in the sonic backdrop.
An imaginative and singular artist, Shyu continues to restlessly innovate. By intelligently bending genres, blending styles and erasing musical boundaries she is redefining what it means to be an improviser
Song of Kwan Wen; Bloom’s Mouth Rushed In; Mother of Time; Moxa; Aku Yang Lahir
Dari Air Mata | Båwå Sidå Asih; Para Pembakar Ombak; She Held Fire; Rai Nakukun Ba
Dadauk On a; Song for Naldo; Thoughts of Light and Freedom.
Jen Shyu: voice, piano, lute, zither gong, idiophone; Ambrose Akinmusire: trumpet; Dan
Weiss: drums; Mat Maneri: viola; Thomas Morgan: bass.
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