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Charming Hostess

The Bowls Project

(Tzadik; US: 29 Jun 2010; UK: Import)

The bowls of the Bowls Project are ancient Babylonian artifacts, tan clay domes ringed with inscriptions. The inscriptions were intended to be magical, and the musicians have taken their cues from this idea of incantation, crying out in some places, yipping and whispering in others, or giving a dramatic growl. The music rears up, calms down, rouses itself again. There is a klezmer clarinet, there is a solemn bass hooting and thrumming. Charming Hostess credits several different influences, including doo-wop, and Balkan and Congolese-pygmy polyphony, and the group’s website mentions the following: “handclaps and heartbeats, sex-breath and silence” as influences. No matter what the singers do, they sound richly satisfied with it, which began to rub on my nerves, in the same way that a novel with a relentlessly correct protagonist can rub. These aren’t people who need an incantation to keep the demons away. They sound pleased enough already. The album exists “at intersection of voice and text,” they say, and I think this might be at the root of that pleased-ness. It’s the pleasure of people who have seen the future already, who have identified it, read it, and measured the balance between one persuasive force and another. The kind of power, in short, that people who write messages to protective spirits don’t have.

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Tagged as: vocal trio
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