Asura – Lost Eden

Asura’s latest CD, Lost Eden, blends dance, trance, ambient and world music elements into a musical gumbo.

Asura is a French electronic group, made up of producer Charles Farewell, flutist Christopher Maze, and bassist/guitarist Alex Ackerman. There are echoes of artists like Peter Gabriel, Tangerine Dream and Banco de Gaia in Asura’s global groove style. The band builds many of their tracks around sampled vocals, including Turkish, African and Guinean vocalists, along with western choral and solo samples. This, along with the inventive synth work, helps give Lost Eden an epic sound.

Though many others have combined world music elements with electronica, Asura carves out their own niche. What’s most interesting about the tracks on Lost Eden is how Asura combines techno dance sounds with a palette of ambient world sounds. When this works, their arrangements give the tracks a unique sound that seems to come from an alternate world.

The first track, From the Abyss, combines great chill-out beats, sounds that would be at home on a William Orbit track and sampled choir. The result is mellow and relaxing, but with enough of an edge to keep it interesting.

Fahrenheit combines stark ambient drones with hypnotic sequences, and then adds huge trance drums, to great effect. Incoming is another interesting track that makes great use of sequencers and drum programming to create a propulsive groove that contrasts with more languid flute work.

The Battle of Devas, one of the highlights of the CD, is an extended track that, though over ten minutes in length, never loses your interest. It combines synth drones and vocal samples to create a hymn-like effect for the beginning of the piece. Asura drops in some funky world percussion to get thing moving, and then lets this percolate for a few minutes. The track eases off towards the middle, with Turkish call and response vocals, before didgerido samples signal the start of the crescendo to the climax of the track. This section combines sequences, the Turkish vocals, and trance drum programming, before returning to the hymn-like vocals from the start of the track.

On a couple tracks, Asura’s use of vocal samples limits their music. On the title track, Lost Eden, and Raindust, prominent vocal samples sound like slices of a vocal performance, rather than a real vocal performance. This is most noticeable on Raindust. Overall, Raindust is a nice track. However, it makes heavy use of female vocal samples. The soulful vocals sound like the singer is getting into the groove, raising expectations that she’s really going to cut loose and deliver some passion. Unfortunately, the use of samples keeps this from happening. A live vocalist could have worked wonders on this track.

Lost Eden is an interesting CD and has a lot to recommend it for fans of artists like Banco de Gaia and FSOL. The tracks are interesting and exotic, and take you on a journey to an imaginary land. On a couple of tracks, Asura’s reliance on sampled vocals keeps the CD from soaring as high as it could, but that doesn’t keep Lost Eden from being the perfect soundtrack for chilling out in your own private Eden.

Tracks:

  • Lost Eden
  • From the Abyss
  • Raindust
  • Land & Freedom
  • Fahrenheit
  • Requiem from Nowhere
  • Incoming
  • Battle of Devas
  • 9. Vol d’Icare

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