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Dennis Rea
Views From Chicheng Precipice
MoonJune Records

Dennis Rea is a new acquaintance, a guitar and string instrument player, but in addition to electric and resonator guitars, this release also list him playing melodica, Naxi jaw harp, kalimba and dan bau, a Vietnamese monochord. He is joined by a dozen other musicians, mostly playing acoustic instruments, covering violin, cello, flutes, clarinette, drums and various percussion instruments, and also more unfamiliar instruments like shakuhachi, koto and baliset.

The 10 minute long opening "Three View From Chicheng Precipice" starts by introducing an undeniably Chinese sounding short melodic theme, which is repeated and used as a base for light improvisation or variations, gliding away and then returning, in addition to a more free form detour. A slowly developing, very delicate and somewhat melancholy track, suitable for a movie soundtrack. "Tangabata" is longer with its 15 minutes, slower and more introvert. At first very nakedly arranged, with few instruments giving each other plenty of space, with no percussion dividing time into chunks. More meditative and less immediate than the first track, you can still imagine this one also being used as a backdrop to a movie, adding a feeling of mild suspense. In this regard, the bass clarinet also adds a certain aura of mystery or surprise when it visits, but otherwise it's a piece for letting the mind drift, until drums drop in towards the end and wake you up. The short "Kan Hai De Re Zi" is a straighter and more forgettable piece, although the electric guitar is nodding towards Mike Oldfield for a few seconds before the violin takes over. Perhaps added as a mental pause before "Aviariations on A hundred Birds Serenade The Phoenix" surprises you as the voice of Caterina De Re is introduced. Initially, your first thought (mine was) may be Yoko Ono, but her voice seems trained to a such level of control that you soon forget any known references. This is bordering on voice wizardry, at times going very high-pitched, mimicking exotic birds, animals and strange jabbering jungle pixies (!). There is a short instrumental American/Chinese folk melody in there, but you hardly notice. This is Caterina De Re's show and it's both the most experimental and the most extraordinary track on this album.

The 10 minute long ending "Bagua" fits well beside the two previous longer tracks, focusing on percussive and string instrument interplay, again with lots of air and very sparsely arranged, rather slow and free form. You might sense Far Eastern and Western melodic meeting and melting well into each other, although this is more obvious in the more hummable opening track. This, along with the spacey and graceful arrangements, makes this an album for slow listening sessions, only interrupted by the non-meditative "Aviariations on A hundred Birds Serenade The Phoenix". Apart from this song, the album is very cinematic, making it easy to visualize a calm early morning with fog gliding slowly over Chinese rice fields. (Yes, I am that unimaginative.)

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