[26 June 2008]
Rudy Maxa is a revered writer, but as the tie-in soundtrack Music from Rudy Maxa’s World suggests, he’s not much of an ethnomusicologist. Flutes, polyrhythms, foreign chanting and other standard world music signifiers abound. For such a planet-spanning roster (courtesy solely of acts signed with Six Degrees Records), this music grows stunningly homogeneous over seventy-three minutes. This is comfortably ambient background music that wouldn’t sound out of place in a free-trade coffee shop or a posh department store—fitting for Maxa’s social-climbing NPR demographic. The performances are stellar: well played, intriguing and enjoyable, but it’s also a safe imperial whitewash of often unsafe aesthetics. While widespread and often subversive global sounds fail to reach American ears, emphasizing these Moby-fied interpretations (over half of which feature Anglo-Saxon writing credits) bungles the opportunity to present some truly exotic sounds to an often complacent American public.