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Julian Julien - Strange CD (album) cover

STRANGE

Julian Julien

 

Jazz Rock/Fusion

3.84 | 19 ratings

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colorofmoney91
Prog Reviewer
4 stars Julian Julien's 2006 album is a powerful and easily comprehensible exploration into ethnic jazz fusion.

As far as jazz goes, Strange is less strange than the title may imply and is actually very catchy and understandable with clearly stated middle Eastern instrumentation (sitar, tabla) in addition to keyboards, cello, violin, and various percussion.

The songs are all very expressive, active, engaging, and often initiate infectious grooves. The grooves are particularly special on "Sophie", "Plančte", and "Tinananan" which all employ a hard electronic beat akin to nu-jazz pioneer Nils Petter Molvaer but still including the vibrant middle Eastern activity that makes this album so special. "Cosmos" is an outstandingly beautiful and highly expressive tune with dramatic melodies on keyboard and violin that sound suspenseful like heated interaction between two intimate lovers. Some of the compositions are dance worthy, like "La Caquou", which is high powered and upbeat and flows on a demanding ethnic groove defined by the bowed instruments while sitar and tabla punctuate the atmosphere.

Whereas a huge chunk of world jazz or world music frequently (or usually) comes off as insincere or downright cheesy, Julian Julien has a rare ability to incorporate this ethnic instrumentation and melodies so smoothly to the point where it never crosses my mind that he doesn't know what he's doing. It's astounding that the ethnic instrumentation combined with electronic trance elements doesn't come off as sounding like a dilettante hippie's attempt at creating new-age yoga jams, and proves to me that Julien is a true professional at his craft.

Ethnic jazz is an acquired taste for some, and many of the artists in the genre tend to create the same kind of bland spiritual cleansing absurdity or modernist fashion show soundtrack music, but Julien Julian has his own sound very much in the same way that Nguyen Le and Anoushka Shankar each have their own sounds. Julien Julian may currently be lesser known, but I'd say he's within the aforementioned artists' tier. Therefore, even for people who are not fans of ethnic jazz, I wholeheartedly recommend Strange for its high level of accessibility and compositional individuality. I can already imagine that this will be a great soundtrack for the upcoming summer.

colorofmoney91 | 4/5 |

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