Thilges La Double Absence

[Staubgold; 2007]

Styles: Middle Eastern + techno + other stuff
Others: Radio Zumbido

Thilges is an Austrian experimental group who have recruited a strong cast of guest musicians and writers for the creation of La Double Absence a West–meets–Middle East album showcasing accomplished oud playing, glitchy minimal beats, and some nice trumpet and drum work. Its range of influences is not limited to continental techno and Oriental fretwork, however. Trumpet player Eyvind Kang lends a Latin American zest to the gracefully ascendant oud scales of “Hig” and “Iziducz (radio edit).” But the real highlights occur when Persian vocalist Zohre Jooya slips her supple, mournful voice through the holes in the zipping, crackling beatscape. “Oudische,” in particular, softens the formal constraints the artists seem to have chosen for their other pieces. With Jooya’s voice spiraling through sweet melismae and a chippy cyclone of acoustic and electronic percussion, it sounds like a full-on intercontinental jam session without losing any of the thoughtfulness or decorum that characterize the rest of the record. Elsewhere there are plentiful exchanges between the oud and Thilges frenetic circuit-bending, which sometimes transforms into pacific sheets of drone framing the oud’s stately, pedal-delayed phrases.

This combination of experimental Western and traditional Middle Eastern musics is designed to yield a new pop idiom. Thilges and their collaborators don’t achieve a complete synthesis, but I think I prefer their dignified symbiosis to a total fusion. It’s a musical dialogue whose success stems more from sound craftsmanship and tasteful writing than from the performers’ associations with this or that cultural framework. Although the whole affair does seem a bit too polite at times, La Double Absence crafts a lovely, worthwhile presence whose apparent effortlessness belies a lot of dedicated mutual listening on the part of its creators. Similar listening on your part isn’t likely to disappoint.

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