Alio Die and Amelia Cuni
Apsaras is named after the female spirits of nature in Hindu myth, who are most often portrayed as water nymphs. Very beautiful, they are also highly skilled artists, serving as dancers and musicians to the gods. Like its namesakes, Apsaras is also breathtakingly beautiful, combining soothing electronic textures, drones, and organic sound samples from Alio Die (Stefano Musso) with the amazing North Indian dhrupad singing of Amelia Cuni. Each of the six tracks on this hour-long CD takes its time to unfold, slowly growing and changing, drawing you in until you become completely immersed in the music, your mind and spirit opening to cleansing visions and dreams.
The opening track, “Ambhas,” like much of the album, explores the idea of water as uniting our spirits with the soul of the world. Gentle drones and samples of flowing water open the track, together with Cuni’s lovely voice. Over the course of “Ambhas,” we hear water falling from the sky, flowing to the sea, and surging in our blood, as Cuni’s voice waxes and wanes with the tides, floating where the sky and waters meet. Often Cuni hits a perfect note and holds it seemingly endlessly, like a moment of perfect beauty in your life you wish you could remember forever — and do. On “Aapaha,” flowing water laps at the shore while bird calls and insect sounds echo from the forest. The track showcases Alio Die’s outstanding ability to integrate natural sound samples into the music; here the repeated lapping of the water is used to create a soothing rhythm with an almost hypnotic quality, while the occasional bird and other sounds keep the water sounds from becoming stale. Cuni’s voice begins very quietly on “Aapaha,” borne on a breeze with tinkling chimes. Her singing has a bit of a nasal, droning quality to it here, like a chanted morning meditation; sometimes her voice is so very gentle and quiet it takes on almost subliminal quality, calming nerves you didn’t even know were frayed.
Not every track on Apsaras is sweetness and light. “Water Memories” is a good example. Repeated, rhythmic cricket calls set a night scene, with dark synthscapes humming and glowing eerily behind them. Cuni’s voice is also low and dark, stretching out to hold some notes for what seems like an eternity, like long memories extending deep into the past. An instrumental drone and heavy synth atmospheres build the tension, then suddenly clear up, like clouds occasionally occluding the moon, then dissolving as you float on ancient currents through the endless chasms of your subconscious mind. Slowly the drones, synthscapes, and voice fade, bringing you back to the present and leaving you with the chirping crickets that began the track.
A truly outstanding album for fans of dark ambient textures or hypnotic, sensuous South Asian singing.
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