Pharaoh's Daughter

Haran | oy!hoo
By JEFF TAMARKIN  |  July 2, 2007
3.0 3.0 Stars
insidePHARAOH’S-DAUGHTER
Thousand-year-old Sabbath songs (zmirot, not Ozzy), Hebrew- and Aramaic-language vocals, and Kabalistic poetry — exactly what comes to mind when you think hip downtown band, right? On their fifth album, the ancient, worldly Judaica that’s inspired the NYC-based Pharaoh’s Daughter blends better than ever with the secular modernism of the indie world. Crisp, pinpoint rhythms, rumbling, insistent bass, and Fillmore-era organ lines flirt with Eastern oud, santur, and kamanche as the reverent gets along famously with the edgy. Front and center is Basya Schechter, the group’s beguiling, much-traveled vocalist, whose malleable, often multi-tracked vocals take flight amid the airtight, shape-shifting ensemble playing. Schechter captivates, whether she’s singing nigun (wordlessly), as on “By Way of Haran,” or retelling the tale of “Hagar” (Biblical, not Sammy). Overt West African and Arabic melodic and harmonic principles inform, respectively, “Askinu,” with its jewel-like kora, and the Ladino folk of “Ven Hermosa.” But the wild jam-band takeoff of “Enpesare,” with its runaway drums and accordion/bass duel, is no less comfortable or unexpected within Pharaoh’s Daughter’s divine communion of the spiritual and the terrestrial.
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