Rebecca Zapen Japanese Bathhouse

Rebecca Zapen’s second independently released disc, Japanese Bathhouse, is all over the map. But from Klezmer to classical, acoustic to orchestral, the one thing Zapen’s songs share is their invariably enchanting appeal. Following up her 2003 bossa nova album, Hummingbird, the classically-trained violinist uses such whimsical instruments as glockenspiel, melodica and kazoo to turn Bathhouse into the musical equivalent of a cheeky wink. Highlights include "Smile,” a cheerful, swinging retro ukulele number with lovely vocal harmonies, and the title track, with its comical clarinet and tooting trumpet. But even on her more sober tracks, Zapen’s sweet, clear vocals and offbeat instrumentation give her music an unmistakable fingerprint. Orchestral flourishes adorn the simplest acoustic folk tracks and strains of Zapen’s violin recur throughout the album. Her three short instrumentals — "Magnus #1,” "Shower #2” and "Pizzicato #1” — have tangible personality and evoke a sense of narrative much like the music in a film score. The colourful scraps of Japanese Bathhouse, dissimilar though they are, coalesce into a pleasant mosaic. This eclectic collection compels another listen. (Bashert)