Reviews 10-26-2005  

Music Reviews 


Romantic Energy

by Twelve Girls Band

Visit Domo Records website

This is very new and very different and I found it a delightful experience. This group is from The People’s Republic of China and use traditional Chinese instrumentation to produce some very interesting interpretations of Western music as well as some very interesting Chinese compositions. 

This is their second CD, and I understand it has been a very big success, as well as their sold out live performances across the United States. I put this in the category of World, because their music runs from pop, to classical to New Age and then to Chinese.  Yes, it all works very well on this CD, not clashing in any way or stretching the listener from one form to another.   

The CD I have has 12 tracks, one of which is a live performance.  The recording quality is excellent, even the live performance.  There are some familiar pieces on this CD and there are some very new and wondrous compositions.  Note here that the CD that is offered for sale has a DVD, which I did not receive for review. 

 “Dunhuang”, the opening track, sets the mood and the pace for the rest of the CD.  Dunhuang is a series of caves in China, noted for their artwork.   There are some paintings of musical performances, acrobats and such included with the scriptures, and this piece reminds one of a mass performance of entertainers, very traditional Chinese in style.  Well chosen for the opening.  The feeling of a full orchestra is consistent in each performance.  Mostly all of the tracks are upbeat in their composition and style.  Some are romantic in feel, others demand presence as this piece does. 

The second cut “Ruten” is just as dynamic as the opening piece, allowing some of the instruments to come to the front and allowing the listener to hear the excellent skills of the players.  Each musician in this band is classically trained in their instrumentation, and it shows in their ability to provide traditional music or wonderful improvisation to the arrangements.  There is almost a Celtic feel sometimes to this piece, but it is expertly blended with the traditional sounds of the band. 

“River Shule” falls back into a classical style of Chinese melody.  It wanders like the river does in Gansu Province, where Dunhuang is also located.  A very flowing piece, very romantic, as the title of the CD suggests.  One almost gets the feel of a gondola on a Venice canal.  “Yangguan” is another composition inspired by Gansu Province, and this piece again connects to that traditional Chinese location. 

“Romantic Energy”, the title track, is another arrangement with an almost Celtic flavor, but still maintains the Oriental feel.  This piece sways and dances while we explore the talents of the individual artists who are again being allowed to show their skills with the traditional Chinese instrumentation. 

“El Condor Pasa” is the work by Simon and Garfunkel.  And it is charmingly interpreted here in a blending that delights the ear.  This is one of those “you have to hear this” pieces to understand how it “translates into the Chinese” effortlessly, and skillfully.  And it twists with just a touch of “pop” that is cleverly done. “Tang Court Ensemble” is a very traditional work, again interpreted by the band so it plays well for the Western ear.  

“From the Beginning Until Now” is a lovely composition that sounded vaguely familiar, but I believe it was written to do so.  A lovely piece that spills over with romance and continues the flavor of the title of the CD. “Whispering Earth” is a very hauntingly beautiful composition, and includes some vocals to hold that illusion.   Very traditional Chinese in feel, yet it manages to break that restraint and provides a place somewhere between the East and the West. 

"Flower” works into pop again, with a kick of jazz, and presents us with yet another side of the band.  Again, the artists are allowed to show off their skills in a new medium and it is very nicely done.  “Carnival” returns us to the “Chinese meets the Celts” style of music, again very nicely executed.  Some real “get up and dance” feel to this piece. The final track is the live rendition of “Freedom” from their 2004 CD.  It has lots of audience participation that does not distract from the work.  But it does show that the audience knows their band and its work.  This is a lovely composition, and it will have you clapping as well.  A nice closing piece to this CD. 

Overall, I am impressed with this group.  This is a great first impression for the new listener to this kind of performance.  The band is tight, knows how to please the listener as well as show off their excellent skills.  The compositions are well chosen, and the CD is a good production piece. If you enjoy upbeat music, and would like something with a slight Chinese twist, this is a lovely work to add to your collection.  While it does run towards the “pop” side, it has elements that could be classified as “New Age”.  I will tell you, in my book the only way I classify it is “totally enjoyable”! 

Reviewed by MA Foster

 

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