[17 May 2010]
Indulgence is a good word. Levantine Indulgence is silky-textured, luxurious, lulling. It’s so willing to relax that the jazz piano in “Kaifa Uhibuka” almost wanders daydreaming out of the song. A trumpet in “Illak Shi” warbles and purrs, a castanet-like backing jingles discreetly: a touch of Spain, a touch of the Middle East, a touch of the US, all of it soft-lit. Gaida, born in Syria, has a refined voice and a Middle Eastern lilt, closing her lines with a tiny inflection, like an elegant backwards hook. At times, though, a song offers to bear a more passionate weight than the musicians are willing to give it, and then the softness becomes frustrating, not an indulgence, but a defanging, a pointless polite restraint. In “Ammar”, a chorus of voices enters, armed with ululations and bells, all of the component parts of excitement are present, ready to lift into ecstasy, but the sound on the album is boxed-in, the aural equivalent of people who dance by striking graceful static poses.