Maraca: Gabriela Plísková (vocals); Petr Flak (oud); Frantisek Slavik (trumpet); Ales Obkracil (fretless bass); Tomas Rohleder (drums); Klement Jochymek (sampler).
Maraca's strong interest in Spanish and Portuguese cultures motivated the concept album Longe around the writings of the early 20th century Portuguese poet Fernando Pessoa. Singer Gabriela Plisková sure has the warmth, flexibility, and range to mimic traditional styles, but the rhythm section remains steeped in rock music, giving the grooves a feel heavier than expected. Then again, Longe is not meant to be genuine Portuguese folk. The backwards guitar introducing the opening track, "Dobre," is as good a clue as any. Petr Filák's oud adds a Sephardic color, but the piece is resolutely modern. Trumpeter Frantisek Slavík (of Iva Bittová's Cikori band) contributes neocool touches in this and a few more pieces. Two songs are sung in English, the other ones are in Portuguese. Arrangements are carefully tailored to offer a balance of tradition (violin, trumpet) and innovation (in the bass work of Ales Obkrácil, particularly creative and unpredictable). Pessoa's words, especially his darker, more intimate poems, find fresh resonances in these elegant songs. Highlights include the delicate "Sonhos," the very East European "I Know," and the teasing bossanova "Nuvens." This is world fusion of a different kind, relying on very adult alternative pop atmospheres instead of the usual hyped-up Latin dance rhythms. Try it, if only for Plisková's highly seductive voice. ~ Fran?ois Couture