Didier Malherbe / Loy Ehrlich

Zebra Acoustic Records, 1996


REVIEW BY: Duke Egbert


French artists Didier Malherbe (originally of European progressive rock band Gong) and Loy Ehrlich seem determined to play every odd instrument they can find on this, their first CD for small label Zebra Acoustic Records.

Instrumental credits include the doudouk or Armenian double reed, the bamboo clarinet, the sapilka or Ukranian double recorder, the zeff, the hajouj or Moroccon Gnawas' bass, the African hunters' guitar, harp, and thumb-piano…and the ukelele. Needless to say, this CD is filed under "World Music," and for good reason. Malherbe and Ehrlich's goal seemed to be to create a CD filled with the soft jazz/new age sound inherent in a thousand chirping birds and synthesizer Windham Hill releases, but do it acoustically, and do it well.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

So did they succeed? Good question. Musically, Hadouk is as tight a sound as you'd want. The various exotic instruments form a seamless whole, smooth and tight, the sound eerily reminiscent of synthesized music but with the breaths and slight unevenness that marks an acoustic performance. The wind instruments specifically have a rich, complex sound that marks Malherbe as a master of his chosen craft. There is also nothing to fault about the production of Malherbe and Didier; the sound of the CD is crystalline, without any of the mud that sometimes plagues small-label releases.

If anything fails, however, it's the content of Hadouk. New age music usually suffers from an overdose of bland, and Hadouk is, sadly, no exception. Nothing really stands out about the compositions themselves - they're ephemeral, vanishing like fog under the sun the moment your CD player has moved past them. Instrumentation this fascinating deserved better, more memorable music. Only the soaring, mysterious "Hadouk", the oddly bouncy "Loukoumotive", the acoustic guitar of "Effarvatte", and the rich woodwinds of "Caspienne Blues" are at all remarkable.

Hadouk isn't a bad CD at all, but it's not going to interest anyone but the dedicated New Age fan or those interested in the alternative instrument selection of world music. As a sociology project, it's fascinating, but as a collection of music it leaves something to be desired.

Rating: B-

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© 2001 Duke Egbert and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Zebra Acoustic Records, and is used for informational purposes only.