The statuesque Aster Aweke, who physically if not musically resembles Grace Jones
, really shines on this, her second album the title of which means Sacred Stones. She's backed by a sensitive ensemble of London jazzmen that does full justice to her unusual voice and spectacular delivery.
While the rhythms range from complex Ethiopian styles to smooth jazz-funk, Aster's voice displays a remarkable variety of modalities, from yearning to rapturous and from coaxing to celebratory.
The album opens with Yedi Gosh (My Guy), a sensual uptempo number where Aweke's voice quivers and swoops to be interrupted at times by interludes of whistling and melodic purring.
The second track Yaz-oh (Get It On) is a steadily pounding dance ditty calling for a remix, whilst the title track is a brooding ballad where her voice soars and plummets from on high to below sea level, yet remains understated with a sort of quiet intensity.
The bouncy Kezira includes yodeling as her voice runs up and down the scales in an impressively swirling intonation. Bati is again a slow number, and Chewata (Romance) is almost reminiscent of Laurie Anderson
in its devotional dirge-like power over an entrancing drum pattern and with a particularly impressive acoustic base and dramatic finger-clicks.
The songs - a mix of traditional Amharic tunes and Aweke's own compositions - are highly distinctive and in a class of African music
quite unlike anything else.