Echoes July CD of the Month: Carmen Rizzo’s Looking Through Leaves.

Studio savant Carmen Rizzo crafts an album of electro-dream pop:  Looking Through Leaves

You’ve heard Carmen Rizzo a lot on Echoes, you probably just didn’t realize it.  He’s a member of the Persian fusion group, Niyaz, produced Israeli singer Inbar Bakal and collaborated with the Tuvan throat singing group, Huun-Huur-Tu.  He’s also a producer, programmer and keyboard player who has worked on dozens of recordings for people like Seal, BT, Alannis Morrisette and Michael Nyman.  He’s a behind the scenes player there, but even on his own albums, he stays in the background, writing music for a cast of great singers. He does that again on his third album of seductive songs called Looking Through Leaves.     It’s a mix of the sensual and the contemplative, a meeting of club music, electronica, and torch song ballads that are shaken and stirred into an intoxicating brew.

Rizzo has a penchant for sultry female vocalists. Shana Halligan from The Supreme Beings of Leisure and Bitter:Sweet, sings of haunted love on “Until You Find Another,” with a hint of Billie Holiday in her aching voice.  That jazz reference is amplified by Gabriel Johnson who adds a moody, Mark Isham-style trumpet solo.  Over a percolating electronic back-beat and surging textures, January Thompson’s voice echoes through a song of lost love and promise while Norway’s Kate Havnevik takes a dance floor beat and does a diva turn on “This Life.”

The most uplifting song may be “Bring the Mountain Down” with Grant-Lee Phillips, a singer-songwriter who Rizzo produced. He has a meditative take on a song that takes lyric inspiration from the story of Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God. But with Phillips’ soulful vocal rendition over Rizzo’s lush lounge moods, it comes off sensual as much as spiritual.

Looking Through Leaves is rounded out by three electronic instrumentals that are a mixture of New Romantic moods and edgy angst.  That balance is perfectly matched on the opening track, “Through the Storm” which serves as an album prelude, the drifting ambiences of “Strada” and the albums closer, a Blade Runner homage called “Element of Hope.”

Most of the time, an Echoes CD of the Month is made for low lights and internal ruminations.  Looking Through Leaves is contemplative as well, as long as your doing it driving down the highway with the windows open and the stereo cranked.  Looking Through Leaves is the Echoes CD of the Month for July.

The Echoes program featuring Carmen Rizzo’s Looking Through Leaves will run on Echoes Weekend stations Saturday, July 10 and Sunday July 11.  Echoes On-Line subscribers can listen at any time.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

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