Wahid is a two-man configuration of just oud and frame drums, a duet reaching back to mid-Eastern sounds and traditions in order to create a result that's remarkably full for being so ostensibly spare. The largest aspect of that quality is due to Dimitris Mahlis' extraordinary expressiveness on the stringed instrument he wields so adroitly. In his playing, and in Chris Wabich's almost haunting time-keeping, emphases, and undercurrents, can be heard again why Ralph Towner and Oregon were so enamored of that region's musics, and why Steve Tibbetts, Marc Anderson, and others echoed the same in their own exotica.
When I say Inside Silence is entrancing, I'm dead serious. Those with a taste for Carnatic modes will find a deep well in the Persian style Mahlis favors. His work demonstrates where the more measured lyricality beneath the usually whirlwind Carnatic mode is laid, though Mahlis' quite capable of going on a tear as well. However, expect more Mediterranean refrains than that as the pair also take from old Grecian and Turkish traditions whenever the moment presents. Too, neither are they afraid to borrow from the West, as in segments of Alexander's Regrets, where passages subtly and not so subtly crib from rock and jazz within arabesqued formats.
Madzub somehow pulls a tanpura and sitar out of the oud in an energetic celebration of holy madness, drones and lead lines pealing off, drum counterpoint soloing in between, a marvelous interlude for Wabich to show acumen, harmony, and contrast. It's simultaneously a dark and happy tune reflecting the mutability of emotion and thought in a transcendently deranged mind (literally; the song is about a mental state sacred to more than a few Orient religions). As with the Northern and Southern Indian musics, there's a good deal of improv throughout the disc, chances to travel beyond borders and through the familiarity of what-came-before. So striking are Mahlis' pieces that they've been incorporated into the L.A. Music Academy's curricula, a very good omen for scholasticism and the arts in coming generations, as the work of the East and mid-East is still so neglected on these shores.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
Copyright 2011, Peterborough Folk Music Society.
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