Review: Crystal Bright and the Silver Hands – The Absolute Elsewhere

Truly multicultural music can be hard to find and perhaps even harder to create in a genuine and worthwhile way. However, when you have had experience in Mariachi, Gamelan, Chinese, Samba and Ugandan musical ensembles (to name a few), and have travelled the world accumilating an appreciation for a myriad of international heritages, as Crystal Bright has, then your creative output is bound to be infused with flavours from across the globe. Combining traditional folk melodies and instrumentation (from European to South American) with sultry, American cabaret, The Absolute Elsewhere straddles two overarching musical worlds with surprising finesse. Exemplified by tracks like ‘Forest of Dreams’, which includes a full-on polka romp and gypsy-styled vocal hook alternating with a brooding, smokey jazz-club interlude, the transitions never jar, simply keeping your ear’s full attention throughout. Album highlight ‘Fall of the Seraph’ showcases a vulnerable, innocent side to Crystal’s voice, beginning as a mournful solo piece by Crystal and her piano and building into a heart-wrenching full band showtune reminiscent of Amanda Palmer at her most overblown. The tender side of Crystal’s music is shown once again on the aptly titled ‘Torment’, showing that amongst all the accordion madness and waltzing grandeur on this album, there is real emotion being outpoured here. Of course it is the aforementioned madness that grabs the listener on first listen, and boy do Crystal and her band know how to fill you with the dancing spirit, the infectious jazz rhythms and earthy carnival vibes transporting you right to the bar; the circus; the forest; the auditorium. The atmosphere of each section is always tangible, a necessity for music like this in order for it to avoid becoming a pastiche; this album exudes authenticity. The Absolute Elsewhere really is a piece of auditory theatre, the scope of which would be impossible for an artist without Crystal Bright’s wealth of experience and love of the music of the world. Though it may not be for everyone, and at just over an hour is certainly not a brief listen, anyone with even a passing interest in world music, cabaret, drama, dancing or any combination thereof should give The Absolute Elsewhere a chance, because if nothing else, the effort put into this kind of eclecticism deserves it.

Richard Spencer

Rating: 4/5

For fans of: Gogol Bordello, The Gotan Project, The Dresden Dolls

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