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World Music CD Reviews New Age & Avant Garde

VARIOUS ARTISTS

By STACY MEYN
Published May 5, 2006

ZEN CONNECTION
One World Music

Anthologist/compiler Leigh Wood hooks up with Australian imprint One World Music and attempts to link philosophy and sound on the elegantly packaged Zen Connection. Truth be told, just admire the nifty box, skip the liner notes (superficial noodlings about so-called Zen influence/connectivity), and immerse yourself in the music. Now don’t count on a load of Zen-influenced songs, either, as only two of the musicians dabble in things remotely Japanese: house DJ/producer Susumu Yokota and shakuhachi master Riley Lee. Yet this double-disc set bagged zillions of “Chill Out” awards in 2002 and deservedly so. The first half, From The East, featuring worldwide musicians concentrating on (and succeeding at) avoiding adding traditional Middle Eastern and Indian styles into glorified elevator music. Nitin Sawhney, Omar Faruk Tekbilek, Phil Thornton and Hossam Ramzy, James Asher, and Bob Holroyd provide just a few of the gems of deft audio aggregation. To The West is next, heading into electronic rumination and relaxation with twists. The French Gotan Project tosses in a tango, English drum ’n’ bass maestro LTJ Bukem makes the mellow move, and Ensemble Ethnique go bossa nova. Airstream breezes in with German ambient (yes, it’s doable!) and Ibiza fave Nacho Sotomayor transcends pop culture cheese.