Flamenco Revisited

Media Court May, 2004

Flamenco Revisited (online here)
by: Lawrence Russell
Celestial longing & gitano funk

La Semana. Ottmar Liebert + Luna Negra. 2004. Ah yes, the smooth groove of flesh on nylon. No steel strings and picks for Ottmar, who disdains the discordant attack in favour of the floating lyrical melody and the rhythm of flight. Despite the fusion & the techno, OL's approach is defined by Romanticism, where the poet's world-view is expressed mostly in terms of Nature. Good example here is Cave In My Heart with its sweet melody and tango feel, tasty electro-squelsh noise & over-driven bass amp punctuations. Imagine the constellation Cygnus materializing as the Swan crossing the night sky, deep with stars & celestial longing. Once again the big landscape of the southwest unfolds in mysterious indigo. Yes, this is a very good album, beautifully composed and recorded in the Santa Fe desert style as defined by OL.

A prisoner in a Moorish fortress has only one glimpse of the sky, a high slot in the heavy walls through which he can see the birds floating in lazy eights. An Alhambra of the mind, a place where flamencos are imprisoned by choice. The sort of thing Jean Cocteau would dream up, say... such is the vibe of track 3, Cocteau, perhaps the most original and engaging composition. Well, I was so taken by this piece that I actually wrote a long story [Obo Cocteau] based on it.

There are many beauties, however: the catchy signature & jazzy impressionism of Evening... the driving linearity of Underworld with its churning right hand chording... or the closing track [13], Caipira...heavy kick, acoustic mic-ed loud. Short... so we want more. Carousel, the first track, is a good entrance for the CD with its funky rhythm canter and occasional reverts to trad flamenco. Sets the tone... and the reggae counter rhythm keeps it all accessible. Or how about a little flamenco funk? Alhambra Jackson is a sly blend of Motor City 7-9 chord riffing and flamenco lead. "I always wanted to be one of those wah rhythm players," says OL. "Sitting back there in the pocket like Paul Jackson."

As usual, an interesting tension between traditional and nuevo flamenco throughout. No synths, just lots of palmas, box drumming [cajon], and the excellent drop-tone bass of Luna Negra's main anchor, Jon Gagan. OL did the recording and mixing himself, so expect the unexpected: reversed attacks, sonic ellipsis, electro-dance stylings, etc. It's all very subtle, but moves this CD away from the stock production style... and in this regard, look out for OL's limited edition of La Semana which will come with a file of photos, drawings, and writings by the artist himself.