Album: Lhasa

The Living Road, Les Disques Audiogramme
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The Independent Culture

Lhasa de Sela's music is as eclectic and indefinable as you might expect from a singer with her cross-cultural background. A Canadian with a Mexican father and an American mother, she draws on elements of cabaret, blues, chamber music, Latin American, country, North African, Tex-Mex and plenty more besides, compounding the rootless, extraterritorial effect by singing variously in French, Spanish and English. Her lyrical themes involve love, treachery, loneliness and displacement: "Abro La Ventana" employs lap steel and trumpet to evoke the trauma of abandonment; "La Frontera" uses mariachi horn and string arrangements to address the issue of crossing borders; "J'Arrive a la Ville" contemplates the urban landscape to a stately waltz of piano, woodwind and marimba; "Anywhere on this Road" reflects upon language differences over handclaps, keyboard and Arabic-flavoured trumpet; and in "Confession", a cocktail samba carries Lhasa's acknowledgement of culpability for a romantic betrayal. Elsewhere, the varied timbres of glockenspiel, vibes, violin, bass clarinet and Tom Waitsian percussion lend tints and hues, while running like a thread through the album is Lhasa's distinctive voice, hesitant but fully-rounded, throaty and feral and boundlessly evocative, like Björk's country cousin lost in the city.