Ekova Heaven's Dust

Several years ago, Dead Can Dance were regarded by some as visionary blenders of Old World and global sounds with modern studio technology. Product of the '80s that they were, Dead Can Dance were also leaden with portent and freighted with a bloated sense of their own importance. Ekova are every bit as visionary, but utterly unselfconscious and unassuming, and make a modestly, but expansively global pop as inviting as it is arresting. Based in Paris, singer Dierdre Dubois is American, percussionist Arach Khalatbari is from Iran and guitarist Mehdi Haddab hails from Algeria. As their name suggests, you can hear echoes of African, Celtic, Middle Eastern, Eastern European and South Asian music in their songs, but they're reducible to none of the above, although somehow a lot of it ends up distilled into something resembling gypsy rhythms and melodies. Dubois's vocals are irreducible, too, sung in no discernible language, but a repertoire of syllables sung to match the music. At first blush, Heaven's Dust sounds like the grafting of techno and trip-hop with world music that has become relatively commonplace the last few years, but while Ekova aren't shy about using samplers or keyboards, they tease out the dance grooves in their heady blends with acoustic instruments that define, redefine and recontextualise the rhythmic and melodic structures they draw from. I'd hesitate to call this a model for world music, since it works precisely because it's not conceived as such, but this truly is a deeply romantic pop without borders. (Six Degrees)