A dazzling but confusing display of virtuoso noodling that’s easier to admire than...
Chris White 2007
Few performers have immersed themselves so completely in the diverse musical cultures of the world as Bob Brozman. His breathtaking range of influences makes the likes of Damon Albarn look like a mere amateur in comparison. Born in New York in 1954, this remarkable Salman Rushdie look-alike studied music and ethnomusicology at Washington University, developing formidable skills as a blues guitarist before devoting his life to traveling the globe, exploring and absorbing the unique instrumental traditions and composition styles of artists from Hawaii and Papua New Guinea to Reunion Island and Venezuela.
In many ways, Lumière is a microcosm of Brozman’s distinguished career to date. Each track is made up of recordings of different melodies played by the man himself on a vast array of guitars and other stringed instruments discovered during his journeys, painstakingly layered over one another to form intricate and multi-faceted soundscapes that create the impression of many musicians interacting in harmony.
It seems churlish to criticise Brozman for a project of such laudable ambition, but Lumière doesn’t always work. Faced by such a daunting cornucopia of invention, listeners lacking the creator’s encyclopaedic knowledge of the source material involved (in other words, almost everyone) may struggle to distinguish their Finnish kantele from their Indian chaturangi, although the excellent sleeve notes do go some way towards educating the uninitiated. The album works best on simpler pieces like “Calypso Calaloo” and “Mazurka Maracaibo”, which seem to focus more on one particular country’s sound rather than several simultaneously. In general though, the sheer complexity of Lumière sees it merge into a dazzling but confusing display of virtuoso noodling that’s easier to admire than love.
It’s great that Brozman’s out there and he’s undoubtedly come up with something that can genuinely be described as ‘world music’ in the purest sense of the term. It’s just a shame that probably only a handful of people who share his musicological heritage will truly appreciate the scale of this achievement.