Urihani – Music for the Planet

Urihani - Music for the Planet

Over the decades, music has become more and more of a commercial commodity, strategically created to appeal to the masses. If one thing is successful, a dozen copies are made and we eat it up like candy. It’s made entirely for the big bucks. Rarely do we find a music project involving a unique sound and a unique message, humble to its own merit. Luckily, I found Urihani and Music for the Planet, a new age collaboration rooted in environmental protection and awareness. Musically, it’s quite life affirming too.

Urihani, which means “spirit of the trees, spirit of the forest” in Yanomami, began in 2003 and is built around the compositions of Philippe Moreau and Jeff Alcaras. It aims to “…sensitize everyone to environmental problems through an artistic approach,” delivering “…an optimistic message, a hymn to life.” Moreau and Alcaras gather musicians and vocalists (of several languages and styles) to convey a universal emotion. It is a diverse, intriguing and beautiful album that suits the nature it seeks to preserve.

Music for the Planet begins with “Lost Souls,” which is full of tribal rhythms and the chanting of Bahia Ouakssas. It is an inspirational experience of earthy wind and string instruments combined with some electronic percussion. Ouakssas sings in a foreign language, but her voice is beautiful enough to satisfy anyone. “2 Late ?,” my favorite track, could definitely be the album’s single. It has a space/pop quality, including synthesized atmosphere, drums, flutes and guitars, combined with the lovely voice of Emily Spiller (who draws comparison to Anneke van Giersbergen). She sings several melodies, all of which stick in your mind, and overall it would fit perfectly on an Ayreon album, such as 01011001 or Universal Migrator Part 1: The Dream Sequencer.

“Over Me” continues the space/pop vibe, albeit with the operatic duet of Nathalie Leonoff & Patrick Texier. Somehow, intangibly I suppose, Urihani does convey a sense that there is a problem in our world (for them, it’s the environment, but for you, it could be different) that needs immediate fixing. If you aren’t a fan of opera, know that the music accompanying the vocals is involving enough to keep interest. The horns and keyboard note intervals are especially affective. “There Inside” is almost electronic dance synth, appropriate for a club. Fred Caramia (whose gravely, almost out of tune style is similar to Aviv Geffen from Blackfield) brings a seriousness that keeps the track from being annoying and elevates its quality.

Continuing the electronica feel is the instrumental “High Speed,” which would fit in at a rave full of neon lights. It’s basically looped drum patterns with random effects sprawling across the stereo channels. Kind of useless, honestly, but Music for the Planet redeems itself with “One Way To Move,” again featuring Spiller, this time carrying a noir quality similar to Amy Winehouse. She sings in the seductive style of Billie Holiday and allows falsetto non-lexical vocables to accompany her. Again the music is smooth and affective, using subtle cymbals and keyboard timbres.

Leonoff sings opera again on “May Be,” which again keeps us listening with intriguing piano and horn variations. It does feel like a continuation of “Over Me.” “Uncertain Experiment” is another instrumental, but this one is very powerful and moving. It features electric guitar and great syncopation over a synthesized melody, which carries a lot of implicate importance. “Some of Them” (again with Spiller) builds slowly with jazz trumpet and more prominent non-lexical vocables. Her multi-tracked vocals create a warm sound, and her different styles of singing throughout Music for the Planet is one of the album’s greatest strength.

A third instrumental comes with “Fragmentation,” which combines organ chord progressions and futuristic countermelodies as its momentum. And of course, there’s programmed drumming. Caramia closes the album with “Another End,” which begins with fragile piano. It’s one of the most conventionally appealing and straightforward tracks, and also simply one of the best. It’s a great closing track, bringing a lot of melancholy about a dying environment. Caramia sings his message with passion, surrounded by your typical rock instruments and some delicate organ and strings, and it’s easy to get lost in its mood.

Music for the Planet is very moving commentary about our dying planet, critiquing our ambivalence and urging us to care more. It combines familiar rock templates with the refreshing instruments of other cultures, wrapping it all in a casing of futuristic, spacey sounds. Perhaps this welding goes beyond aesthetic, auditory pleasure, symbolizing that if we don’t cherish and acknowledge the world we have now, we are doomed in the years to come. Whatever its statement, you will be moved by Urihani emotionally, and hopefully for their cause, moved to action as well.

Lost Souls