The main problem I have with some "world music" or "jazz/ethnic/world/etc. fusion" is that it's a bit facile & smug. The end product can leave one with the feeling, "Look at us! We're so cosmopolitan! We've brought all kinds of technical flash & wizardry to this unspoilt, unsullied music-from-another, simpler-culture. What's more, it lacks the existential oomph that makes listening an emotional as well as an intellectual experience. Volapuk, a quartet consisting of ex-members of France's Etron Fou and Japan's After Dinner, has that problem beat.
With a line-up of violin, cello, flute, clarinet, tarogot (an East European reed instrument), marimba and drums (and occasional vocals), Volapuk weaves an enchanting spell yet completely sidesteps navel-gazing and avant-wank. "Entre 2 Zoo" and "Marimba" sound like Philip Glass-like minimalism dressed in turn-of-the-century Parisian finery, and "Nusrat" is a subtle yet heartfelt evocation of the sinuous sound of Pakistan's late Qawwali master. They don't "rock" or "swing" in the usual sense, but the music MOVES and FEELS. Throughout this varied CD, Polyglot Volapuk draws upon the beguiling intonations and rhythms of klezmer, Maurice Ravel, Eastern European, Chinese and West African folk music (with a touch of free jazz skronk), making for a bracing yet affable listening experience. This is PERFECT for This Giving Season.