Considering that the Armenian progressive rock/folk/jazz sextet Artsruni has only released one studio album, a new live album should be met with skepticism. After all, some bands with much more seniority than these guys have gone years without issuing a concert record. But in the case of Artsruni's The Live Cuts-2000/2001, a live vibe lends added credence to the band's lofty, contemporary take on traditional Armenian melodies.
Even though six of the 10 tracks here are culled from the band's debut record, Cruzaid, they take on an entirely different sound in a concert setting - a paradoxical occurrence given that audience applause at the three venues where this record was recorded is sometimes almost inaudible. In fact, most of the time, it sounds as if Artsruni is playing to an empty room. Yet the band's music is so intoxicating that it's tough not to get caught up in Vahagn Amirkhanyan's confident metal riffs, Arman Manukyan's beautiful flute, and the enchanting vocals and guitar playing of band namesake Vahan Artsruni. Meanwhile, the rhythm section of Artur Molitvin on bass and Levon Hakhverdyan on drums (along with percussionist Liliana Hakhverdyan) is more pronounced on The Live Cuts than on Cruzaid, creating more of a fusion feel to the overall disc than the debut.
The album's crescendo comes near the end, with the Armenian Philharmonic Orchestra performing on the majestic "Ethnophonica," which features a brigade of drums and heavy brass. Other highlights include guest vocalist Naira Abrahamyan joining in on "Call of the Wind," and the medieval twinkle of "Patranque." The sound quality may suffer on a few of these tracks, but they still manage to convey charm and class. The Live Cuts and Cruzaid are both worth seeking out and obtaining, as they are two completely different works that showcase Artsruni's depth and roots.