Etherea Borealis


Very Music, 2007

REVIEW BY: Vish Iyer


It is not difficult to imagine something as trivial as pop music attempting something as deep-rooted as traditional ethnic music and turning it into something quite awkward.

Barring world music’s crowning achievements in the form of inspiring musical feats attempted by pop musicians like Peter Gabriel, Paul Simon and a handful of other métiers of pop music, more often than not the result of such a union of two grossly separate worlds -- by the likes of Apache Indian, Deep Forest and Enigma, just to name a few popular ones -- always lacks the modesty of the element of traditionalism and ends up sounding way too glamorous to be called fusion music at all. Yes, they may sound fun and catchy, but usually this is only because of slick Western beats and exquisite production.my_heart_sings_the_harmony_web_ad_alt_250

On the other hand, when pop music tones down its gloss and everything does fall into place perfectly, the result is brilliant with a good balance of traditional earthiness and modern refinement, which is true in the case of Etherea Borealis by Aurah (comprised of duo Marc Donald and Judith Martin).

Etherea Borealis is spiritually tinged with plenty of Eastern -- primarily Indian -- vibes,  infused with pop music, and the result couldn’t have been any sweeter. Without sounding klutzy or tawdry, Etherea Borealis is every bit a classy ethnic pop record. The downright indie-pop numbers (“I Love You For That” and “Clouds”) are as  stunning as the mystical ones (“Ready To Go” and “I Decree Peace”), which are as brilliant as the psychedelic dreamscapes (“Karma” and “Etherea Borealis”) that the album takes us through.

Aurah’s laid back sensuous acoustic music style combined with an undertone of trip hop is very similar to Zero 7 and Air. Though the band has been called “electronica,” except for using the keys and programming for ambience the music is organic, featuring real studio drums and guitars. This holds true for Martin’s vocals as well, especially when she is trying out Eastern vocalization and it comes out chaste and pure (just listen to her sing on the grand album closer “I Decree Peace”). This actually goes well with the band’s idea of wanting to be earthy and electronic at the same time.

Unlike most pop records with an ethnic flavor that try to mechanically follow a formula and sound more like chemistry experiments, Etherea Borealis is actually a well thought-of album with a human touch; there is actually a warmth in the blending of the traditional with the modern, which is so important, since the human aspect is such an integral part of ethnic music.

Etherea Borealis is far from straightforward. It has different layers that have to be peeled before one can understand the true essence of the record; but it doesn’t take an awful lot of listens to get to it, and it is certainly rewarding.

Rating: A-

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© 2007 Vish Iyer and The Daily Vault. All rights reserved. Review or any portion may not be reproduced without written permission. Cover art is the intellectual property of Very Music, and is used for informational purposes only.