Orchid Ensemble Life Death Tears Dream

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Orchid Ensemble's latest, Life Death Tears Dream, is said to be inspired by poetry, both old and new. Certainly the opening track, Lan Tung's "Dancing Moon," best exemplifies this, with its swinging juxtaposition of traditional erhu and zheng instrumentation, which then darts into wild marimba and cajon punctuations, provided by percussionist Jonathan Bernard. This is the group's follow-up to 2004's Juno-nominated Road to Kashgar, and it demonstrates that the trio of Tung, Bernard and Haiqiong Deng are masters of their instruments, willing to break new ground. While numbers like "Three Variations of Plum Blossoms" date back nearly 2,000 years, the jazzy walking marimba of "Hayot Hakodesh" sounds distinctively New World, despite its Old Testament inspiration. The album embarks upon its greatest departure during final track "Ghostly Moon," a spoken-word reinterpretation of ancient ghost stories with an eerily ethereal soundtrack reminiscent of David Axelrod's Earth Rot. As the title suggests, Life Death Tears Dream is intended to conjure up an emotional response. And, for many, this will be a new discovery that, perhaps most fittingly, offers a moment of introspection. (Independent)