Afterlife effort of a vagabond soul as rendered by Milanese man of many voices that echo all around the world.
World music is a deceptive term because, when embraced by a single artist, it’s usually parochial rather than pancontinental. Fortunately, Giorgio Pinardi broke free from such a concept by assuming cultural customs know no boundaries – and the breadth of melodic mélange the Italian singer served up first on his 2015’s solo debut “Yggdrasill” and now on “Mictlán” is genuinely breathtaking. This record’s fantastic polyphony flows free, if not always easy, and the record’s trip is worth embarking on and staying in.
Instead of offering a walk in the park as many fusion singers do, Pinardi will start off with a thunderstorm in a rainforest, with dripping creating a sense of urgency that subsides and submits to a chthonic hum only to let lightweight spirits of “Khnum” out in the open. These fluttering reflections of vocal lines multiply around the listener’s ears and progressively unfold a sophisticated web: ebbing and mutating in their mirror-like trance, yet never losing sight of a primary, primal tune whose edges are brilliantly rough, an unlikely characteristic for a soundscape. Occupying a different space, “Tin Hinam” may seem sprawled over a scorching desert, but its hypnotic a cappella has an operatic heart, as muezzin incantation is supported by monastic chant and punctuated by the same low-tone voices before handclaps-splashed flamenco steps heat up the dry air and pour a high-pitch Mediterranean playfulness into the intoxicating sonic brew which is spiced with the rootsy doo-wop of “Gurfa.”
Further down towards the equator, the scintillating “Mbuki-Mvuki” hosts tribal ghosts that conspire en masse and diverge, allowing individual quests to get back in mesmerizing percussive patterns, while keeping wildness reined in – increasingly so. Then, in one nigh-imperceprible swoop, the globe is spinned to the Western hemisphere again, where bossa nova ripples float to the fore, welcoming “Sygyzy” – a sexed-up exercise in throat singing – and eventually taking “Tingo” for the proverbial walk, its chopped, syllable-based phrasing promising forbidden pleasures. As a result, don’t be smitten with the solemnity reigning in the austere oratorio of “Orhwurm”: this epic would prove to be simultaneously frivolous and serious.
Almost abstract, “Eostre” could pass for a jumbled signal from other planet if, stricken with a baby cry, it wasn’t so grounded in this mortal soil. This down-to-earth, yet celestial, magnetism is what makes “Mictlán” truly special – the world music’s milestone.