Slow, melancholic-sounding improvisations with a beguiling array of effects.
Jon Lusk 2008
Esoteric, eclectic and prolific, the recently deceased French producer/composer Hector Zazou has made his name with tastefully tweaked cross-cultural collaborations such as Les Nouvelles Polyphonies Corses, Sahara Blue, and Songs From The Cold Seas. All of these showcased vocal talent within his trademark atmospheric electronica, but In The House Of Mirrors places Indian and Uzbekistani instrumentalists centre stage, answering, echoing and embellishing their slow, melancholic-sounding improvisations with a beguiling array of effects.
The opening Zannat is a typically hypnotic piece that marinades the dry, metallic plunking of Toir Kuziyev's tanbur (long-necked lute) in a pulsing heat haze of discreet, looped percussion, backwards samples and woozy insect chatter. One by one, the other featured artists appear, first Manish Pingle artfully twanging an Indian slide guitar à la V.M. Bhatt/Debashish Bhattacharya, backed by what sounds like a kanun on Kanoon Ampa. The ethereal Attainable Border: South features the violin of Milind Raykar, whose long aching phrases in the gayaki style eerily mimic the human voice, building to an extraordinarily emotional climax around six minutes in. Norway's Nils Petter Molvaer tentatively shadows Pingle's playing with ghostly, tooted trumpet on Wanna Mako, and by Sisyphe, we finally hear from bansuri (bamboo flute) maestro Ronu Majumdar.
And so it goes on, for over an hour. In The House Of Mirrors could be seen as an ideal starting point for those curious about Asian classical music and its derivatives, but perhaps put off by its apparent austerity. Zazou's lush treatments bring out the instruments' seductive sonorities, and the beats don’t overpower their charms, as often happens in these kinds of fusion efforts. The well-chosen guest musicians also include flamenco pianist Diego Amador and long term Zazou colleague Carlos Núñez on flute, (who sounds distinctly Celtic on Nazar Sham), interacting in what appears to be real time with the main artists. The ambient feel makes this ideal chill-out/bath music, though of course, close-up listening on headphones reveals more of the electronic detail.