Review of 'bamboo dynasty'
In a dramatic change from his other album I have heard, the sublime and reflective LAKE MELVA MEDITATION, this release from YELLOW BELL is brimming with sensual world fusion rhythms and snaky melodies. In addition, Richard Brookens, who recorded LAKE MELVA MEDITATION solo as YELLOW BELL, is joined here by five different accompanists. And while their work certainly adds a lot to the recording, Richard still is handling the main melody instrument (various flutes and wind instruments), as well as synths and some percussion, so this is still, more or less, his album. And what an album it is!
Fans of Middle Eastern/African fusion music will love bamboo dynasty, for despite its title, I was reminded more of deserts and nomads than of the Far East. "Segatanieras" is a mid-tempo (eventually increasing to faster) beat-driven number with flute wafting lazily above assorted hand percussion. Very sensuous and smoky in feel, the piece has a strong dance-vibe to it as it builds in intensity throughout its four and a half minutes. "Armenia" follows with exotic percussion in abundance, followed by soprano saxophone and extremely lush synths. Sounding like it could fit on the Paul Sauvanet's Nomad or even Indumani from Open Canvas, this number alone is worth the price of the album, in my opinion. That sax soars above these mysterious keyboard washes while the very sexual rhythms on the hand percussion instruments lay down a libido-heavy beat. The almost orgasmic drive concludes before the songs ends and things wind down into a quasi-tribal flavor, almost like something from Roach and Rich's Soma. Too cool!
Another highlight is the album centerpoint, the sixteen-minute "Botswana Waltz" which opens with Coyote Oldman-like flutes and Serrie-ish washes of synths, both sumptuous and mysterious. Rainsticks bring a tribal element to the song, and synth choruses elevate the track into some kind of netherworld where all sorts of world fusion meets tribal/Middle-Eastern/East Indian/Pan-Asian...you name it, it has some influence in this incredible song. Later in the song, African percussion elements are introduced, along with spacey synth effects. This is truly wonderful world fusion music as it embraces the real meaning of fusion. Completely disparate elements come together to form a cohesive soundscape that blends primal instincts and futuristic visions. I wish I could find the words to convince ambient fans to give this one a try. Music like this is so tangibly alive that I find it hard to believe more people don't just go nuts over it.
The album closes with "Ablution", an exploration of synths, percussion, and flute which manages to be both semi-experimental (owing to its arrhythmic elements) and quite accessible at the same time, and the short uptempo and upbeat "Bamboo" which brings bamboo dynasty to a joyful and life-affirming conclusion.
Richard Brookens is a talented musician and composer. When examining the serene ambiance of LAKE MELVA MEDITATION and the globe-hopping fusion of this CD, I was most impressed with how effortlessly he moved from one mode to another. If you have any liking for world music, especially if it's laced with exotic hand percussion, or for expertly played flute lines, bamboo dynasty needs to be added to your "buy" list. In addition, if you're an ambient music lover with an itching for something different, try this one on for size. The synth work on some cuts is perfectly mixed with the acoustic instruments to produce something truly special. bamboo dynasty gets a huge thumbs up from me, that's for sure!
[ Bill Binkelman, Wind & Wire Magazine, New Instrumental Music and Interviews.]
Read about the musicians and instrumentation, the compositions, and the recording of 'bamboo dynasty'.