Carl Cleves & Parissa Bouas – Out Of Australia – Stockfisch Records Multichannel SACD SFR 357-4060-2, 49:50 ****:
(Parissa Bouas – vocals, guitar, shruti box, percussion, cachichi; Carl Cleves – vocals, guitar; Lea Morris – backing vocals; Peter Funk – dobro, guitar; Dominik Jung – guitar; Lucile Chaubard – violoncello; Christian Struck – cor anglais; Beo Brockhausen – tambura, jew’s harp, swarmandal, mbira, hulusi; Lars Hansen – fretless bass, electric bass, upright bass.)
Flemish born singer/songwriter Carl Cleves and Greek-Australian vocalist Parissa Bouas have captured the hearts of folk enthusiasts in Australia. They are celebrated for their unique acuity for global storytelling, reflected in relevant social and political narratives. Together since 1991, as members of the Cleves-formed band, The Hottentots, the duo continue to perform and record together. In the tradition of authentic folk music, they travel extensively, integrating different cultures and auditory influences into original compositions. Cleves, who holds degrees in Law, African Music and Contemporary Composition, inhabits the aura of an international beat poet. Influenced by a collage of inspirational artists like Bob Marley, Abdullah Ibrahim, Arthur Rimbaud, Townes Van Zandt, and Kurt Weill, passion and conscience become recurrent contexts.
Out Of Australia, consisting of twelve original songs, is a ruminating perspective on worldwide society. Coalesced by folk-based guitar constructs and emotional vocals, each track has a unique feel. A centerpiece, “The Bethlehem Bell Ringer” examines the plight of innocent victims in the Palestinian struggle. Parissa Bousa’s incandescent voice is heartfelt, and the hymnal chorus, no less than exultant. The use of a tambura (string drone instrument) adds a somber Middle Eastern tone. The plights of diamond mine workers (“Way Down In The Mines”) in Johannesburg, and ethnic genocide (The Coniston Massacre”), are recounted without overindulgence. Framed by the steady guitar of Cleves, and his idiosyncratic baritone (not unlike Scottish troubadour Donovan), there is a consistent lyrical aesthetic. Not all of the serious minded themes find a proper elucidation. “Graceful” attempts to juxtapose a breezy tenor and HIV reference, with incongruous results.
African spirit is rendered with joyous abandon on the folk chant “Mother’s Song”. Backup singer Lea Morris blends with Bouas in perfect harmony. “Sharpening A Knife”, an adaptation of a poem by Nanao Sakaki has a Gaelic cadence, with chorus repetition and a soaring lead vocal. In addition to the milieu of international social mores and politics, there is a sensitive coloration by various Middle Eastern and African instruments. This nomadic anthology captures the pathos of the human condition with originality and verve.
Multichannel SACD is an ideal medium for this music. The understated nuances of the various stringed instruments are reproduced with clear acoustics, whether it’s a prominent rhythm guitar, or delicate lute. Tonal quality of the voices is flawless. The depth and texture of the vocals (in particular the ensembles) refine the musical eminence.
TrackList: Into The Light; Eclipse Of The Sun; Don’t Flowers Grow; Way Down In The Mines; House Of Sorrow; Mother’s Song; The Coniston Massacre; Graceful; Zeco; Sharpening A Knife; Carmen.
— Robbie Gerson