In the Garden of Souls
Sometimes mystical and meditative, sometimes deliriously danceable, Vas’s music weds heart and mind in a union that is deeply soothing to the soul. The combination of Azam Ali’s gorgeous siren singing and Greg Ellis’s groove-laden drum and percussion in a fusion of world musics and modern sensibilities brings to mind Dead Can Dance or Loreena McKennitt, and Azam’s wordless but exquisitely expressive singing reminds me of Sheila Chandra’s vocal wizardry. But really, Vas is in a class all their own, vessel for an artistry that blends Middle Eastern and Indian rhythms with medieval sacred chant and synth soundscapes in a heady hookah swirl they call “alternative world.”
I like all the tracks on this CD so much that it’s really hard to pick favorites to highlight here. “Inamorata” fills me with an almost religious sense of awe, the delicate hammered dulcimer and cello coupling with Azam’s haunting voice to summon the image of a ruined cathedral with molten sunlight slanting in through moted dust, striking golden sparks from the pure rainwater pooled in a corroded chalice on the crumbling altar. And “Ceremony of Passage” highlights Greg’s fantastic drum and percussion work, with heavy drums rolling thunder down below as tighter, higher drumbeats weave around them like countless feet hitting the ground in perfect time, circling dancers around the sacred fire, their leaping shadows red against the black of night, intricate face paint and tattoos glowing and writhing with the dreams of the ancestors.
Narada, 4650 N. Port Washington Rd., Milwaukee, WI 53212-1063; http://www.narada.com