CD REVIEW: Cedar & Soil - Dirge
by: Cyrus Rhodes
Cedar & Soil
Genre: Chill, Dub, Ambient Experimental-Pop, Fusion
David Byrne, Moby, Beck, Prodigy, Peter Gabriel
"Cedar & Soil is an interesting project out of NY. It features George Abi-Hanna, a Lebanese indie rock musician and producer based out of Brooklyn. With a background spanning from international diplomacy to working in the music industry, Abi-Hanna set out on his own clandestine musical mission in 2007. He has since released two self-produced albums, Radio Beast (2007) and Foreign Mansions (2011). His intimate sound is rooted in indie rock and colored by his unique sonic hues of electronic and Mediterranean music. Tracks like ‘Jibni’ blend both Arabic and English lyrics, sung and chanted to an optimistically eerie effect."
The CD gently takes to flight with soothing intro piece “Here Comes the Sound”. This song methodically serves up infectious musical ambience against mesmerizing vocals, hypnotic lyrical content and dynamic rhythms that gently lead you by the hand down the path of musical indulgence. Track 2 “Jitterbug” shifts gears a bit with its thick groove, impressive ambient accents painted against a grand mosaic of soundscapes and striking vocals that brilliantly move like an ocean across the ears. Track 3 “The Dreaded R Train” an impressive electro-earthy piece that is quite dynamic, full of musical peaks and valleys that flow and ebbs its way through to emotional fruition. This piece is remarkably striking to the ears with its Alternative Rock touches and hypnotic groove. As the CD slowly unfolds I can hear many musical influences reminiscent of a classic Moby, Beck, Prodigy, Pink Floyd to David Byrne, however I can even hear brief flashes of Peter Gabriel and even Yasunori Mitsuda. I would classify this music as classic New Age, Experimental with classic remnants of Dub, Alternative rock, and even Chill - all possessing brilliant flashes of theatrical ambience and a brilliant artistic perspective. You will also notice rich layers of ambient instrumentation layered along the way full of dynamic sequencing, melodic soundscapes, sporadic percussion, rhythm guitar, solo guitar, Keyboards, Organs, low end beats, sonic vocals, exotic sound effects and enticing melodies. Abi-Hanna showcases impressive singing, strong musical instincts and songwriting throughout. His musicianship and compositions are pretty solid across the board as he clearly proves himself as a composer with this release. From melodic “The Beat down” to striking “By the Sea” to methodical “Siren” to hypnotic “Faris” this CD has something for just about everyone. The CD ends with “Jibni” the perfect finale statement for an EP of this caliber.
Abi-Hanna needs to bring more instrumentation to the table. Things like sonic trumpet, piano, keyboards, strings, saxophone, additional percussion, flute would really add even more dimension to the catalogue. The mix though adequate lacks a modern day dynamic and flair. 3 songs are a bit short sided and feel like incomplete statements to me. A few more solo segments wouldn’t hurt either. The CD is a bit short with 9 tracks, typically 12-15 tracks are needed to make it a fully loaded release. .
Dirge is a compelling musical journey, and George Abi-Hanna is a fascinating Composer/Artist. It's strong suit is it’s amazing sonic ambience and the song for song musical flow. Abi-Hanna gets high marks here for his brilliant musical transitions and connecting passages - nice touch. This CD will be a real joy for those listeners out there who want flowing theatrical ambience to fill their sonic space peacefully and unobtrusively. This progressive somewhat melancholy format makes for a great extended play experience. I recommend you just hit play, close your eyes and see where the journey takes you. This CD feels like a musical journey and will work best when experienced in that capacity. So if you’re looking for a psychedelic musical experience with sonic ambience, theatrical brilliance and a psychedelic rock aftertaste then I highly recommend you take a listen to Dirge by Cedar and Soil.