Rupa & The April Fishes Extraordinary Rendition Review

Album. Released 2008.  

BBC Review

Musical globe-trotting conducted with sophisticated elegance and underpinned by a...

Michael Quinn 2008

San Francisco may never again capture the epiphanic heights of the 1960s, when the Haight-Ashbury intersection was the very cradle of the global countercultural movement, but it seems it's not going to give up trying.

Rupa And The April Fishes is the latest category-defying, pan-everything, all-musical-points-of-the-compass outfit to come from the melting-pot city. They're surprising and delightful, as the punningly titled debut disc Extraordinary Rendition colourfully reveals.

Extraordinary Rendition crackles with energy and seethes with vivid splashes of colour. Sung in French, Spanish and English, it has a likable ability to simultaneously stimulate and soothe, its aromatic melange of sounds throwing up surprise after surprise in a free-wheeling, all-inclusive fashion that intoxicates with every note.

The musical signature owes much to the diversity of the five-piece band, fronted by the eponymous and exotic Rupa Marya, along with the intensely woven but lightly worn reciprocity of their playing. As gently swaying piano accordion mingles with the pulse of a double bass, brass and percussion massage the senses with welcome hints of klezmer, Argentinean tango, French Musette and Roma music. All of this is subtly filtered into a seductively assembled whole.

There's a useful tension, too, between Marya's ambition to say something politically relevant and her aspiration to do so in an determinedly laid-back style. You might catch echoes of DeVotchKa, The Tiger Lillies or Gogol Bordello here but you won't find any of their unfettered hysteria, comic-book grotesquerie or messy rawness. If you absolutely insist on a comparison, think Pink Martini with the emphasis on music rather than on style for style's sake.

Instead, there's something sunlit, warm and free to be found in all of this, and a refreshing honesty, too. It's musical globe-trotting conducted with sophisticated elegance and underpinned by a winning sense of joy.

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