DABOA “FROM THE GEKKO” [Third Wave, trecd 115]

Gamelon Anyone?
Nelson Brill

May 2004


Where to begin with this audiophile gem? First, it defies all rigid categorization, blending soaring and liquid vocals with a heady mix of Baroque, jazz, flamenco, rap and laughter. The sonics of this recording are as resplendent as the jungle of sounds that it emerges from, rewarding the listener with gorgeous sonic surprises, like spotting a fleetingly rare scarlet macaw in flight. This gem will really test your system’s ability to deliver musical nuances, low-level details and a soundstage as broad as your listening space will allow. How well can your system reproduce the sounds of a flowing river and then the shimmering highs of a gamelon or the crack of maracas? Feed it this disc and be immersed in a lush landscape of color and sound from whose undergrowth it is very difficult to emerge-got a machete? 

Daboa consists of vocalist Maria Marquez and her creative partner, vocalist and multi-instrumentalist Frank Harris, who wrap their sinuous and beautiful melodies around intricate vocals, chants and calls, supplied by other musicians and pre-recorded sounds and voices. The disc commences with what may be the deepest crunch of sheer bass you may encounter, simulating the giant mortars called “Pilones” used by women in the central coast of Venezuela to mash corn. Canton Del Pilon continues into a swirl of delicate layers of sound, including a background of laughing children and a rooster crowing from the deep soundstage. Low level detail and nuances are to be mined from every corner of the musical event portrayed. The richness of this musical journey continues in “Bein’ Green,” a radical departure from the versions performed by Ray Charles and Van Morrison, where layers of recordings of the Surui Indians of Brazil are juxtaposed with the liquid vocals of Marquez, soprano sax and delicate rainforest sounds. The version is both a somber and beautiful rendition, conveying the sense of renewal as well as primordial loss: the linear notes indicate that the chant of the Surui in this song were originally created as a chant welcoming the first white persons they encountered. From its closing thunder clap, we move to the unique, shimmering sounds of the gamelon in Jakarta. All at once, we are transported to a musical landscape of uplifting delicate harmonies, plunging in the next musical phrase to the depths that the unique gamelon can render. This shimmer and deep plunge will test every ounce of your system’s ability to get the tone color of the gamelon right, leaning forth to comprehend the complexity of this unique sound-producing body. In Campesina, water first flows forth from the wide soundstage, joined by delicate percussion, vocals and animal sounds. This piece unveils wonderful sonic surprises and delicate detail, revealed to the listener in perfect time and pace. One should not hurry here, but linger in the wealth of enveloping colors and let the surprises of musical intent and detail emerge with time and repeated listens. The piece ends with what seems to be a creak as an old door closes and silence prevails. The last number, Don’t Be Late, melds the sounds of steel drums, multiple vocals and layers of percussion in nimble musical lines. Speed and dynamics are put to the test as the melody builds and then is scattered to the winds and is gone, just like that fleeting scarlet macaw. Treasure this gem and revisit it often. 

We welcome any readers comments or suggestions for other audiophile CD favorites for upcoming Stereo Times reviews. Please contact Nelson Brill@Stereotimes.com



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