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As I was browsing through a used bookstore about five years ago I came across Gabrielle Roth’s Maps to Ecstasy: Teachings of an Urban Shaman. The first line of her prologue hooked me (“I was raised on rock ‘n’ roll, fast food, and subways”) and I bought the book immediately. Since then, I’ve discovered her other books, attended lectures and seminars and bought several of her CDs. If you asked my general opinion of Ms. Roth, I would have to say that I think she has an absolutely unique teaching that she brings to this world. I recommend her to everyone, particularly her classes. But her teachings do not always translate well into non-personal mediumm and the music she and her group, The Mirrors, produce is all over the spectrum of what I like.  In other words, her music is hit and miss. “Tribe” is like that for me as well.   The album opens with a brisk flow of drum work that gets the blood pumping, but is all too soon marred by oddly-toned female vocals.  When they stop and the guitar steps in sounding like a slide guitar, I was relieved, only to be annoyed when the vocals returned. What I can appreciate, however is that this is a very upbeat, almost hyper, interpretation of the musical form Ms. Roth labels ‘Flowing’ which should be feminine, circular and is associated with water.  Instead of a soft stream flowing into a lake, we have the pounding rain of a summer storm, crashing onto a wooden roof. ‘Staccato,’ the second track, is jarring and asynchronous at first, but mellowed a bit after a minute. I felt there were strong allusions to the work of West African artist, Angelique Kidjo, particularly her album Aye. I liked it much more than the first track, but realized that it wasn’t really fulfilling its promise of being staccato, which Ms. Roth interprets as a very sharp, masculine rhythm of straight lines (in a sense). But the third track, ‘Chaos’ was wonderful – dark, deep, and totally danceable.  I had a hard time sitting down, and kept bouncing and snapping my fingers.   ‘Lyrical’ was irritating, but I’m not a big fan of spoons as a musical instrument, and those vocals were back… I won’t say I hated it, but I had a hard time not just skipping forward to the next track for the 5 minutes and 45 seconds of this piece. (I wasn’t really looking at the clock the whole time.  Promise.) The last section of the first piece, ‘Stillness,’ was nice, but a little too long.  Maybe because I wasn’t dancing or moving the whole time, and this piece is designed to cool you down and bring you back to the present. Interestingly, although the vocals were back, I liked them in this piece – perhaps because they were supporting the musical theme rather than distracting me from the beat. There was a mystical quality to this track that was lacking elsewhere in the CD, although I didn’t realize until I compared it to the other sections. The last track is a 14 minute piece called “Talking Sticks.”  And it was well worth all the rest of the album. This was trance-pop with a gorgeous beat that appealed to the dancer in me. Like during ‘Chaos’, I could not keep still. I wanted to move my body, flow around the room, and bop all over. So I did. This track really reminded me of Delerium’s ‘Karma,’ although not quite so spacey/trance-y. Overall, I think this album is one to own. Perhaps not immediately since I only really liked 70% of it, all told, but if you like Ms. Roth’s other work, and you like drum-y danceable music, this would make a good addition to your collection. ~review by Lisa Mc SherryArtist: Gabriel Roth & The Mirrors Produced by: Raven Recording http://www.ravenrecording.com
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