Farshid Etniko: Nightmare in Heaven

Latin, jazz, and blues? Can you find a more haunting triumvirate? Warning: Much of the upcoming text is filled with painfully obvious (but also sincere) allusions. Nightmare in Heaven is a really nice CD. There, I said it, and I’m not sorry. It really is nice and pleasant but charged. At many times, it is even haunting. Farshid etniko’s CD cover states that their sound is inspired by Latin, jazz, blues, and traditional Persian music combined with other diverse ethnic influences. Latin, jazz, and blues? Can you find a more haunting triumvirate?

I’ve played the disc for a variety of people, and I’ve yet to find someone who didn’t like it. Quite often, the words “nice” and “good” were used, and what’s wrong with that? There is a lot of both nice and good to be in these 14 songs.

Track five, “Messle Sayeh,” steers the CD in a Latin direction and gradually moves the listener on to “Kamicaz Blues.” The guitar work in the latter is really stunning: one note echoes into the next, almost as if in pursuit.

“Landes” is another amazing track, where you are drawn through the song by Sandy Weltman’s harmonica. Weltman delivers a wistful harmonica that provides the flavor of the countryside without detouring into the country side of music. It is even better and more vibrant when performed live.

Unfortunately, nearly in the middle of the CD is “Behind the Seas,” a distracting foray into the spoken word. Ayse, who contributes vocals on this track, has a strong and clear singing voice, but the spoken word portions make you feel a bit like you are eavesdropping on a Romper Room taping. While the poem that the song is based on is intriguing, it is very nearly not worth the effort to extract it from the music and singing.

“Minor Swing” is one of the best tracks on the disc, and to be completely enjoyed, it should be seen and heard. While the aural experience is gratifying, seeing it played almost distracts you from the music.

Another of the standouts is “Where Are You From.” It grabs and stirs the listener, whether in person or on CD. While it really brings all of the instruments together, you finally get a feel for the importance of the percussion work, which has generously supplied the background in prior tracks. It makes this song a treat to see and hear live, where you can watch Ali Soltanshahi at work.

If you don’t want to spend the money on a CD, try one of their live shows. Farshid etniko’s music can be enjoyed in so many ways. The skill the band displays with their instruments makes each performance a form of visual entertainment. After one performance, you’ll be hooked and end up buying a copy of their CD anyway.

Farshid etniko’s CD, Nightmare in Heaven, is available at live shows and via their Web site: www.farshidetniko.com.

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