Ancient Echo by Vellúa is one part of a two EP project. This is music that roams over the world and incorporates sounds from Iran, India, Armenia and Africa to name a few places. It also has a strong jazz component to it and subtle electronic touches to enhance the overall sound of the music.
Fusing world music sounds together can be a fraught proposition. Badly done, it ends up sounding muddy and lacks a sense of cohesion. Thankfully on Ancient Echo, Vellúa does a good job of balancing all of the diverse elements so that it hangs together well. I am particularly taken by the impassioned resonance of the duduk (an apricot wood, single reed instrument) played masterfully by Ilia Mazya and Hamed Torkaman’s setar (an Iranian stringed instrument) playing.
Even the less unusual instruments have a flair to them. I thoroughly enjoy the style of violin playing on this album, it is one that originated in the Middle East. It has a freer, more wandering feeling than more Western styles.There’s something meandering and breathy about it which I enjoy. Stein Bullhansen takes some tasty guitar solos that are inflected with jazzy elements and delicate, shining piano also moves in and through the tracks.
Again the balance between more acoustic and electronic elements is solid on this album. The electronic sounds are kept subtle and don’t climb the forefront. One won’t find any over the top drum n bass or techno beats that overwhelm the sonic landscape being created on the album. Everything that Vellúa adds simply deepens and makes richer the musical tapestry of the EP.
There is a feeling of deep emotion that fills Ancient Echo. The emotional landscape is formed by the ethereal sounds that permeate each track. There’s space here along with expressive instruments that cut into the listener’s heart and everything seems just a little misty and hazy. The sound itself is clear but the sense of something that drifts into view, like islands emerging from the mist fills the entirety of the EP.
Track by Track Breakdown
“Arran” is a good example of how Vellúa approaches the fusion of many diverse musical influences. There’s a strong throb of percussion, including frame drums and other traditional percussion instruments. The violin that moves in has that wonderful plaintive sound that comes out of Middle Eastern traditions of playing. In contrast, Hugo Lee’s jazzy sax soars through the music and delicate piano notes sparkling through under it. I also enjoyed the atmosphere given by the French voice over. This is an airy, ethereal feeling piece of music with hidden depths.
There is a feeling of a heartbeat to the percussion on “Maali” that I found compelling. I was also taken by the plaintive power of the singer’s voice that is deeply emotive and expressive. The way in which Stein Bullhansen’s acoustic guitar dances and whirls along with the emotional expression that resonates from Tatiana Shishkova’s voice drew me into the music. I was also touched by the way the violin melody trembled with sadness and a wistful feeling as it sighed out over the sparkling piano notes under it.
“Dejah” is given a unique feeling by the unmistakable, powerful sound of the Armenian apricot wood oboe known as the duduk, played expressively by Ilya Mazya. It’s an instrument that has a stirring, almost vocal sound to it. The piece is based around one of Erik Satie’s Gnossiennes for piano, but that duduk as well as frame drum percussion and Stein Bullhansen’s jazzy electric guitar gives it a fresh new feeling. I am often drawn toward music that takes beautiful source material and tastefully enhances it like this arrangement does.
The interplay of the Iranian setar and the quanun is what defines “Orénda.” The setar has a “dry” sound to it and what sounds like a qanun adds shimmering textures of notes to the piece. The Farsi vocals and setar are contributed by Hamed Torkaman, adding layers of expression and emotion to the track. His voice has a lived in quality to it and is set off by the complex interplay of sounds around and under it. The track has an open, airy atmosphere into which the sounds move.
“Nira” is a track full of ethereal float and glow. The unmistakable sound of Mohanad Nasser’s oud playing lends a distinctive quality to the piece and electronic sounds enfold it and add a feeling of floating ease to the music. There’s also Carolina Treuel’s wonderfully emotive cello playing a melancholy melody while the oud somersaults through intricate cascades of notes. This track is full of peace and gentle sounds.
Vellúa’s EP Ancient Echo (Part 1) is a globe-trotting album full of beautiful, different sounds and a feeling of peace and warmth. In this time of such challenges fo the world, Ancient Echo is a perfect example of how we can all be drawn together through the power of music and its emotional language.