EKOVA: Space Lullabies & Fantasmagore

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Ekova’s sound is all about exotica — a fanciful blend of real world traditions with pop experimentation from guitarist-luteist Mehdi Haddab and percussionist Arach Khalatbari, and strange, nonsense vocals from cellist Diedre DuBois. Dubois’ ethereal glossalalia is cute at first, and rides over the moody, shifting soundscapes nicely. But after a while, it curdles into something reminiscent of Kate Bush at her most obnoxious and pretentious.The music, on the other hand, is smart and challenging. Unlike a lot of “worldbeat” projects that merely mine non-Western musical traditions for exotic flavor, Ekova really seems to inhabit this music. When the group bends and blends musical styles, it’s from an insider’s perspective that understands where the music should go and, more importantly, where it shouldn’t. On North African-inflected tracks, including “The Chase,” Ekova makes the music wail properly, while on Central American-styled tracks, such as “Steel Bird,” the music is suitably light and full of flutes and marimbas. The programming is deft, too, and not as heavy-handed as it often is on these kinds of projects.Of course, not every track works, and sometimes the listener is left with failed experiments (the pots-and-pans banging intro to “In the Kitchen” probably seemed like a good idea at the time) to go with DuBois’ ridiculous gibberish. But if you can get past these flaws, Space Lullabies yields up more than a few pleasant surprises. – Tom Pryor

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