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Stephan Micus: Desert Poems

It is true that, in world music circles, a kind of incipient racism can surface regarding white musicians who venture into other cultures. Some crossover experiments are dubious and dilute their sources, to be sure, but there are plenty of worthy aesthetics stitched from pan-ethnic influences, as well. Take the case of Stephan Micus, a multi-instrumentalist, and multicultural sound poet who has been creating entrancing musical landscapes for many years, leading up to his 15th album on ECM, Desert Poems. Micus is in a virtually unique position, concocting meditative music through tasteful use of overdubbing. For this project, the instrument list includes sarangi, kalimba, nay, shakuhachi (as on the meltingly beautiful solo piece, “First Show”) and the voice, often stacked in layers. As usual, Micus composed all the tracks except for a rare “Shen Khar Venakhi,” a traditional Georgian choral, but here realized using multiple tracks of dilruba and sattarr-bowed instruments from India and Turkey, respectively-to create a resonant swirl of sound. Micus has mined ideas from around the world, but developed a quietly compelling musical world of his own.

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