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Alpaca Guessed: If Not Then Else

I'm trying to think of a suitable label for this album. Some possibilities: tribal trance, ethno-symph, indigenous new age, etc. Not a one suffices on its own, but perhaps all of those could be strung together into one long term much like the group Braindance uses a twenty word-long blurb to describe its music. The packaging and photos are a bit deceiving; as If Not Then Else is not BGM, this is no somnolent affair. Pianist Nik Newark and reedman Rohan Leach also play synths, bass, acoustic guitar, mandolin, banjo and assorted percussion. The ten themes do tend to prescribe an innate peace, but rocky rhythms surface often to shake up the liquid calm that overfloweth. Leach is a jack-of-all-reeds, performing on Thai-made flutes, and bawu (a "free reed" pipe) and hulusi (gourd flute), both of Chinese origin.

Gritty sampled percussion kicks in on tracks like "Loam" and "The Diet Cola Dream" to promote just enough of an edgy vibe for a welcome contrast. "Loam" in particular assumes an overture-like quality as a result, with octal piano runs and flanged drums waltzing along with sampled percussive noises and synthbass. "Adam" works in the same context with both a drumloop and acoustic drums. "A Grebe Amongst The Bulrushes" and "Nicole" are short solo pieces by Leach and Rohan, and the only ones that mainly rely on the purity of a single instrument (bawu, piano). An ambient collage of muted voices and drones gives way to a jazzy piano solo in "Strangely Perfect." That and "Diet Cola Dream" rank among the duo's best compositions, the latter being a slowly-evolving tapestry of fragile melodies that never break the surface of the waters. If Not Then Else is a beautiful, wholly competent work that can be compared to Lucia Hwong's two albums in the 1980's for Private Music, and even early Shadowfax without the fuzaky trimmings.


1. Loam
2. Adam
3. Ten Years After
4. A Grebe Amongst The Bulrushes
5. Nicole
6. If Not Then Else
7. Strangely Perfect
8. Pale Imitation
9. The Diet Cola Dream
10. Perfect Strangers

Total time 60:28

Added: September 6th 2004
Reviewer: Elias Granillo
Related Link: Alpaca Guessed ~ Homepage
Hits: 3187
Language: english

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