Start with the feel and rhythms of traditional East Indian music, add in harmonies and melodic components of late '60s psychedelia. Then extend the sitar solos and tabla rhythms into the realm of synths and modern dance beats and guitar rock and you've got the eclectic underpinnings of the marvelous amalgam of music coming out of Sidonie as Let It Flow.
This talented but unlikely trio from Barcelona has done well with this debut offering, and now this popular CD makes its way from Europe to the U.S. market. Sidonie is comprised of Marc Ros (vocals, guitars, bass, keyboards, sampler, and percussion), Jesus Senra (vocals, bass, sitar, guitars, keyboards, sample, and percussion) and Axel Pi (drums, tabla, bongos, keyboards, sampler, and other percussions). These talented lads manage to mix it up quite a bit, yet the majority still sounds like some sort of laid back stoner soundtrack from decades ago.
They start it out with "Love", a musical pastiche of many elements with words that seem to be a random collection of thoughts and wishes loosely attached to romantic notions of love and fame (e.g., "I'd like to fall in love in Paris / I'd like to be famous like Peter Sellers"). Here, as in many of these songs, the overall musical feel is more important than the lyrics. Sidonie is about atmosphere, an uncanny ability to mix genres effectively.
"Cry" is another song that could well be an undiscovered Traffic tune from decades past (mixing in bossa nova-style whoops at song's end is a nice touch as well). The title track "Let It Flow" opens heavily with sitar, bongos, tablas, and Indian flavor but morphs into a more psychedelic sort of musical endeavor, offering up a microcosm of what Sidonie is all about. The wonderful percussion by Pi and Senra's guitars here recall the vibe of "Tomorrow Never Knows" and "I'm Only Sleeping".
Just to keep you guessing, Sidonie shows they are capable of some interesting work on covers. The choice here being the unlikely Madonna cut "Beautiful Stranger", Sidonie manage to turn it into a fairly intriguing sonic journey, heavy on organ, synths and effective repetition. Those enjoying this funked-up psychedelic version (yes, it is a strong song) may have to concede that Ms. Ciccone has true talent.
"Gene Clark" trades on a riff lift from the Monkees (taking it into new territory), then turns it into something both fresh and retro-psychedelic. "All Is Cool in the Evening" mixes in a little more funkified R&B to the trippiness, allowing for some pleasant vocals, bass lines and harmonies.
"Curious Change" is one of my favorites on the CD, an extended sitar and percussion jam if you will, that extends into very trippy trance-like areas. Put on the headphones and travel to other dimensions with this one. Another trance-inducer (but perhaps less ambitious and structured) is "Through the Hole", at 5:47 the longest track on the CD. This is all about atmosphere, electronic noise and synth sampling, sitar noodling, and intriguing percussion.
In "Sidonie Goes to Varanasi", you'd expect it to be heavily influenced by Indian music (Varanasi being one of the most ancient living cities in India, a sacred place of Hindu pilgrimage), but it doesn't appear to be. Instead, you again get a fairly interesting song full of many disparate eras/elements that Sidonie mixes into a fresh whole (there's some chanting thrown in a la Enigma toward the end of the song as well).
"Sidonie Goes to London" opens with didgeridoo and a virtuoso bass, blossoming with some sitar into basically a more formal instrumental extension of "Through the Hole" which precedes it. There is impressive work from all three musicians here encompassing sitar/guitar, percussion and bass.
Don't be fooled by the slow start to the closer "Entertainment". Some 50 seconds into the song, it launches into something resembling "Funkytown" and rides that disco beat for another five or so minutes, complete with electronic game noises and a wonderful percussion solo that is guaranteed to have you dancing along. Also here is an interesting percussive use of sampled sounds of passion that fits well with the lyrical question: "Will they remember us when our cocks leave the Earth?"
Sidonie love all kinds of music and have incorporated a variety of their influences and more into their unique amalgam of East meets West and old meets new (you'll hear some Stone Roses, some Air, some Divine Comedy, some Beta Band among others mentioned above). Let It Flow is an auspicious and richly entertaining debut from this talented trio, but a lot of this seems to be about either the novelty of mixing disparate elements or the fun of doing an extended jam off simple riffs (which probably reflects to live performance well). While Sidonie have a knack for melody and harmony, I think I'd like to hear more of that on whatever comes next from them in the studio, along with more unexpected covers.