Simon Emmerson smells good. Not because he’s necessarily so hygienic, but because for the last four years or so he’s been creating custom made spa soundtracks for Lush Spas. They’re mostly in the UK, but now they’ve opened in the US in New York City and Philadelphia. Spa music usually has me going more manic than serene as I plow through stacks of CDs that are generically bland at best, crass, calculated and corny at worst. But these soundtracks for Lush Spas, released under the umbrella of Fresh Handmade Sound have Simon Emmerson’s name attached. Just say Afro Celt Sound System and that’s all the authenticity and credentials I need.
Emmerson was a co-founder of the that band which brilliantly fused sounds and musicians from Africa, Asia, Ireland and England into an electronically brewed ecstasy. Now he’s joined by artists like Simon Richmond, who is another Fresh Handmade Sound composer and musicians like sitarist Sheema Mukkerjee from Transglobal Underground and singers like Jackie Oates, Eliza McCarthy, Martha Tilston and Rosie Doonan to make albums that would be considered brilliant works of lush downtempo fusions, ambient music and dream-pop if they weren’t marketed as spa music with generic covers. You can hear them talk about their music tonight on Echoes.
The Fresh Handmade Sounds recordings aren’t easy to get. You’ll find them scattered in Lush Stores and even more scattered on-line.
Here are the ones I’d try to track down
The Nightjar Orchestra is the ad hoc group put together for this album. Besides Emmerson, it also features Richard Evans who has recorded extensively at Real World Records and worked with Peter Gabriel and Michael Brook among many others. Synaethesia is lush, folk based and string laden with expansive, acoustic based tracks like “The Great Western.”
The Sound Bath
This one approaches ambient more than most with subtle keyboard fugues under nature sounds, the plaintive sound of Afro Celt’s N’Faly Kouyate singing and playing the kora on “Hand Bells” and Enoesque themes like “Bluethroat.”
A Hard Days Night Treatment
This album shouldn’t be so good. They take Beatles tunes from “I Want to Hold Your Hand” to “Golden Slumbers” and turn them into lysergic folk music. In particular the array of female vocalists, from Eliza McCarthy to Jackie Oates are entrancing. Unfortunately, this might be the hardest to get at this time.
John Diliberto (((echoes)))
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