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The Magic Carpathians Project 

Ethnocore II: Nytu (Drunken Fish)

Wednesday, Mar 21 2001
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Like any form of fusion -- nuclear or jazz -- "world music" is a high-risk endeavor. It often leads earnest but aesthetically challenged dabblers to smush disparate musical elements into an odious pan-cultural cheese wheel palatable only to the hippie-dippiest of listeners. Thankfully, the members of Poland's Magic Carpathians Project are no drum-circle dilettantes.

The Magic Carpathians (aka Karpaty Magiczne) came together in 1998, with woodwind specialist Marek Styczyñski -- former leader of Polish psych/drone group Atman -- and Anna Nacher, a gifted vocalist and multi-instrumentalist. In the band, the atmosphere-savvy duo, who have composed soundtracks for a number of documentary films, join forces with former Atman members and other guests on a small mountain of instruments that range from obscure items such as chimitra, doof, and Slovakian fujara to better-known tools such as hurdy-gurdy, sitar, and Mini-Moog.

On its first U.S. release, Ethnocore II: Nytu, the Project occupies a free-floating dimension somewhere between an extraterrestrial temple ritual, the renaissance goth recordings of Dead Can Dance, and the Eastern ambience of experimental artist Rapoon. Invoking an intoxicating blend of opium-den hypnotica, the band mostly avoids cringe-inducing world beat clichés, only occasionally dipping into faux monastic ululation and didgeridoo overkill.

Ethnocore II: Nytu draws heavily from Styczyñski and Nacher's travels to India and Nepal, incorporating field recordings from an Indian wedding, Buddhist nun ceremonies, and wagon caravans through the Himalayas. The track "India Mal" kicks off with some exotic street noise and sultry beats, seamlessly segueing the sounds of construction and motorbikes into percolating psychedelia. "Ram Nam Satya He" juxtaposes a driving bass groove with velvety violin and Nacher's melodious mantras; "Radical Acoustic" is a lot more acoustic than it is radical, though it's a fine woodwind workout nonetheless. The hands-down pick of the litter, however, is the creaky/creepy "Atropa Belladonna Cries," an alienlike anthem with gurgling synthesizer that plays counterpoint to wheezing bleats of clarinet and less identifiable instruments. Throughout Nytu, the group concocts a heady, transcendental listen -- New Age music for people who wouldn't be caught dead listening to that sort of thing.

About The Author

Mike Rowell

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