Radio Tarifa Cruzando el rio

Radio Tarifa have up until this point in their career figuratively stood astride the Straits of Gibraltar; that narrow channel that separates Europe from Africa - two continents a world apart, as the story usually goes, but whose histories are deeply entwined, dating back millennia before colonial times. With their first two albums, Rumba Argelina and Temporal, Radio Tarifa made fascinating and often entrancing explorations of the Moorish influence on the music of the Andalusian and Castilian regions of southern Spain in medieval times. With Cruzando el rio, the three-piece, led by the flamenco-hued, gritty vocals of Benjamin Escoriza, have both updated and broadened their sound, incorporating electric guitar into the medieval-inspired melodies and antique wind instruments while tackling a more expansive sweep. More than straddling Gibraltar, they're now wandering ancient trade routes, taking in sounds from Japan, Egypt and Renaissance France, as well as a kind of pan-Mediterranean folk. Of course, from the perspective of the dilettante reviewer with no firm grounding in ancient musicology, it's hard to know what's authentic and what's merely a well done pastiche, but Radio Tarifa at least give you the gut feeling that they've done their homework diligently and, more importantly, found the abiding relevance of ancient strains of music freighted with transcontinental history. (World Circuit)