Zeena Parkins Pan-Acousticon

It can be difficult to pinpoint what electric harpist Zeena Parkins does in other leader’s sessions. In creating an awesome array of sounds over many octaves it becomes hard for the listener to reconcile one's traditional image of the harp with the madness Parkins can conjure up. Just listen to her "Solo" on Pan-Acousticon, or her duet record with Elliot Sharp on Victo to get a handle on some of the possibilities for electro-harp. Pan-Acousticon took three years to making, and was well worth the wait. Parkins uses an all string and percussion band to great effect: the strings, guitars and percussion sound like extensions of the types of noises the harp naturally makes. Glissando string parts (played by sisters Sara and Margaret Parkins) shimmer angrily on top of percussion and crash into a wall of distorted harp, guitar and daxaphone. However, as frenetic as many of the songs are, there are also moments of quiet melodic poignancy in such tunes as "Organ of Corti." In all, each member of the group improvises so sympathetically along the lines of any given song that it is sometimes hard to tell where the composition stops and the freedom begins. Samples underpin many song structures, such as the sequenced piano at the heart of "Cavere." Electronics in general, whether a filter sweep or a diseased delay setting, are not just wacky effects in the final mix, they are thoughtfully integrated into the content of each song. A special mention must be given to the production of Parkins and Elliot Sharp for a clear recording and mix that never sounds overburdened with too many ideas. (Tzadik)