Robert Christgau: Dean of American Rock Critics

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Consumer Guide Album

Heart of the Forest [Hannibal, 1993]
Where Baka Beyond: Spirit of the Forest, the acoustic guitar jam producer Martin Cradick constructed around tunes and percussion tracks parts he took out of the jungle, is so easy to ignore it makes you appreciate the candid hokeyness of Deep Forest, where Cradick constructs an awesome and enchanting glimpse of another world. His musical record of the Baka pygmies borrows the structure Steven Feld devised for New Guinea's Kaluli on 1991's Voices of the Rainforest, which condenses the sounds of a village day down to an hour. But unlike Feld, Cradick doesn't try to evoke a mindset in which birds, insects, frogs, running water, and crackling brush create music to that the human beings who share their earspace "lift-up-over sound." Instead, as in Smithsonian's recently reissued Mbuti Pygmies of the Ituri Rain Forest, natural sounds provide the ground of an ethnomusicological array dominated by indigenous harps--magical incantations, nursery rhymes, work songs, occasional divertissements, and drunken revelries. Before you buy any more guff about aural environments and ambient whoziwhatsis, check out what a real soundscape sounds like. Don't miss the water drums. A-