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Mus | El Naval (Acuarela)
This second full length release from Mus (discounting last year's Darla records trance out) captures the duo of Fran Gayo and Monica Vacas in a characteristically intimate musical setting. Clearly inspired by 'Alma', the mini-album of traditional Asturian songs that precedes this album, Mus are augmented by various guest musicians, including Frank Rudow of labelmates Viva Las Vegas on drums, fleshing out their brittle and enchanting folk derived song structures. The ten self penned tracks here benefit from additional instrumentation and a punchier production, giving Mus free reign to add Velvets guitar drones, military syncopation (Cuesta) and eerily decaying electronics (Caseria) to their musical bedrock of guitar and piano. Whatever the musical backing, Monica's heartbreaking, whispered vocals are right at the fore of the compositions, instilling the album with a sense of emotional unity. I will confess that my grasp of Asturian is less than encyclopaedic, but in terms of an emotional response, I hope that a comparison to Portugal's melancholic Fado tradition would not be inappropriate. Vacas' voice manages to effortlessly slice through our cultural boundaries, inhabiting a space where emotion eclipses linguistic understanding.

Simon Berkovitch
CWAS #11 - Autumn 2002

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