Music from Another Dimension: Akara.

The global orchestration of Akara’s
Extradimensional Ethnography
is the Echoes CD of the Month for November

Hear Akara interviewed this weekend 12/4-6 on Echoes

If Afro Celt Sound System had brought Philip Glass and Dead Can Dance into their trans-global orbit, it might have sounded like Akara. It’s a fantasy meeting of orchestral, electronic and world-music elements with a couple of wrinkles tossed in that are strictly from the imagination of Joshua Penman.

But this isn’t just music, it’s a conceptual project. Music can take you to another world, whether it be the dystopian regions of Nine Inch Nails or the fantasy realms of Yes. Akara wants you to believe that their music actually comes from another world.  Penman posits the idea that there is another dimension that he  has tapped into, that was here before us and maybe even begat us.  Extradimensional Ethnography presents the music of that other dimension, and the lyrics on the album are attributed to the “Luminous beings” from the other side.

Here’s what he writes on the website:

You awoke. You were there, among the luminous beings. You did not know how you had arrived, or what language they were speaking, but you understood they meant no harm and they wished to sing you a story.
It was important.

Wherever the music comes from, it’s an exotic and intoxicating sound that nods to the world fusion of Afro Celt Sound System and the supralingua vocalese of Lisa Gerrard. But Penman, the brain trust behind the project, has his own take on the global electronica formula: he brings in orchestras, live ethnic instruments and a compelling sense of melody.

Femke Weidema is the vehicle for the lyrics of the “luminous beings.” She sings in a fragile soprano, usually multi-tracked, that emerges through the ether like a voice calling from the spirit world.  Like Gerrard, she makes her wordless vocalese sound like an actual language, while at the same time filling more of an instrumental than lyrical role.

It may not emanate from another world,  but Akara creates a global orchestral music of the furthest imagination, one that propels you with surging rhythms and melodies that caress like the gentlest hands.  Ethnic elements are uprooted: the Indian mandolin could very well be a middle eastern oud; the flutes sound more eastern than western; the strings could often be mistaken for a sarangi or erhu; and the percussion flows east and west between dance marches and shifting bendir beats. Only the electronics always sound electronic, with gurgling saw-tooth buzzes and stutters.

It’s the use of classical orchestral elements, that really sets this project apart.  Joshua Penman has spent a lot of his young career composing orchestral works and he’s brought that experience into Akara with organic, elegant horn and string arrangements.  The orchestral midsection of “Dissolving the Veil,” could fit perfectly on a classical concert stage.

But the stage for Akara is definitely between your ears where they construct: a ritual temple of prayer and dance, contemplation and ecstasy. Akara’s Extradimensional Ethnography is our CD of the Month for November.

John Diliberto ((( echoes )))

Hear Akara’s  Extradimensional Ethnography featured on Echoes Monday October 3

You get great CDs like Akara’s  Extradimensional Ethnography by becoming a member of the Echoes CD of the Month Club.

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Hear Akara interviewed tonight (11/29/2011) on Echoes

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