Mondo Melodia / Ark 21
Art is all about choices: what words to say and not say; exactly what vibrancy of color to paint; which notes to bend or tweak or leave alone. Choices. And, if composer/instrumentalist Steven Last was trying not to make this disc sound New Age, then clearly this man has made all the wrong choices. Galactic Caravan is a remix album meant to make Arab music a bit more palatable to the Western tongue. An attempt to place such acts as Trans-Global Underground, Hakim, Cheb Mami, Najma, and Amina on our dancefloor.
There is a percussive vibrancy to much Middle Eastern music that could translate well if remixed in the right hands. Unfortunately, Last has two left feet for those appendages. His treatment drowns out the percussion with too many New Age cliche electro-synth washes. This is more of a Gabrielle Roth “dance” album for the crystal worshippers. Last seems to drain the life out of most of the tracks (his own 2step-ish “Dream” being the most interesting exception). Though an interesting idea, it’s being done better by the likes of Karsh Kale and Talvin Singh and could’ve been a lot more interesting if Ark 21 would’ve approached a Jazzanova, Tosca, Chris Bann, or, for something totally mind-bending, a Nobody.