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on 26 July 2010
...mainly Muslim lands, that is. This is overwhelmingly folk-inflected world music, and the songs come from Egypt, Palestine, Lebanon, Iraq, Azerbaijan, Kazakhstan, Ethiopia, Iran, Turkey, India and Serbia. Every one of the 12 pieces was commissioned and either written, or in most cases arranged, specifically for Kronos. Most have a very traditional sound, despite their translation into string quartet arrangements. The main exceptions are "Tashweesh (Interference)," by the Palestinian group the Ramallah Underground, which features electronics, and the 22-minute "...hold me, neighbor, in this storm..." by the 39-year-old Serbian composer Aleksandra Vrebalov, which concludes the album. It is by far the longest piece, and the only one which falls into the category of contemporary classical -- it is a quintessential example of postmodern pastiche, with church bells, Islamic calls to prayer, and disparate elements representing the cultural diversity of Serbia.

The title FLOODPLAIN refers to the central role of rivers in many of the cultures of Eurasia and Africa -- the Nile, the Tigris & Euphrates, and the Indus, just to name a few. But the unifying theme is also the wars America has been waging in the Middle East and Southwest Asia and the desire of the musicians to transcend the cultural barriers that exist among all the peoples involved by sharing the stunningly beautiful music. The feelings expressed in the music reveal the common humanity of those who play, and those who hear.

Some highlights of the album for me include Hank Dutt's viola solo in "Raga Mishra Bhairavi: Alap" (the alap is the opening of a raga), David Harrington's violin in the Azeri song "Mugam Beyati Shiraz," John Sherba's violin solo in the Turkish "Nihavent Sirto," Jeffrey Ziegler's cello played in the style of a Kazakh horsehair fiddle in "Kara Kemir," and the soulful melodies throughout. The Ramallah Underground piece is quite powerful, as is the 1970s Iraqi song "Oh Mother, the Handsome Man Tortures Me."

This is a superb album! It is probably the most similar to NIGHT PRAYERS (see my review) of all those in the now extensive Kronos catalog. It would be wonderful if it contributed to the goal of breaking down barriers of hatred and stereotypes and hostility. Short of that FLOODPLAIN can bring some probably unfamiliar beauty into your life.

Peace, shalom, salaam, namaste.
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on 22 May 2011
A beautiful album. The Raga, and the Serbian track that ends the album, are absolutely gorgeous pieces of music - in just a fortnight of owning the album they've hit my 'top 25 most listened' list on my itunes due to constant listening!
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on 10 July 2009
"World Music"? "String Quartet" surely a contradiction in terms. Not when it's the Kronos Quartet. These serious musicians have produced an interesting CD of fusions of music emerging from from the cultures based in areas surrounded by water and prone to catastrophic flooding, mainly the middle east but sometimes further afield. If you read the extremely informative booklet you can appreciate the music on an intellectual level, but to us ordinary folks the CD is a joyful, but sometimes haunting, celebration of humanity.
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on 9 July 2009
The Kronos 4 have done it again! This is a stunning and evocative collection of haunting songs, at once sensual and moving, buoyant and celebratory. The wail of the strings in some of these pieces is a really passionate and provocative cry. This is music I will listen to again and again as each time I find more to think on and more to wonder at. It is beautiful.
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on 5 July 2009
At first, I was left with the feeling that the Kronus were exploiting worthy issues to support a rather mediocre performance. The agenda of celebrating the ancient civilisations founded on this planets floodplains is a worthy one. However the pieces are so short that they cannot do justice to the richness and demands of the difference genres. Self concious dissonance adds to the irritating feeling that the cultures have been hijacked to decorate the Kronus's reputation.

Maybe look up the individual performers and experience them unsullied by artiness.

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A serious modification on further listening!

On more listening some of the tracks are really great. The dissonance takes a little while for the ear to tune into, but there are some wonderful pieces of music. Maybe listen to each piece individually rather than play as an album.
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on 11 October 2011
My former knowledge of the Kronos Quartett was à bunch of men with high thoughts of themselves! My recent opinion is the same but now I know that really are fantastic. This is à cool mix of World-music and classic à must have;-)
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on 1 August 2009
The best way I can review this unique music is through haiku.

early morning minaret -
discordant calls
cut the air

Sunday afternoon...
a family photograph
yellows on the mantlepiece
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