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A Behind the Scenes Player Steps Up
A Behind the Scenes Player Steps Up
A meeting of club music, electronica, and torch song ballads, shaken and stirred into an intoxicating brew. Carmen Rizzo
Looking Through Leaves
(Electrofone Music)
Carmen Rizzo has been heard a lot on Echoes, but you probably just didn't realize it. He's a member of the Persian fusion group Niyaz, produced Israeli singer Inbar Bakal and collaborated with the Tuvan throat singing group, Huun-Huur-Tu. He's also a producer, programmer and keyboard player who has worked on dozens of recordings for people like Seal, BT, Alanis Morissette and Michael Nyman. He's a behind-the-scenes player there, but even on his own albums, he stays in the background, writing music for a cast of great singers. He does that again on his third album of seductive songs called Looking Through Leaves. It's a meeting of club music, electronica, and torch song ballads that are shaken and stirred into an intoxicating brew.

Rizzo has a penchant for sultry singers. Shana Halligan from The Supreme Beings of Leisure and Bitter:Sweet sings of haunted love on "Until You Find Another," with a hint of Billie Holiday in her aching voice. That jazz reference is amplified by Gabriel Johnson who adds a moody, Mark Isham-style trumpet solo. Over a percolating electronic back-beat and surging textures, January Thompson's voice echoes through a song of lost love and promise while Norway's Kate Havnevik takes a dance floor beat and does a diva turn on "This Life."

The most uplifting song may be "Bring the Mountain Down" with Grant-Lee Phillips, a singer-songwriter whom Rizzo has produced. The song borrows lyric inspiration from the story of Hanuman, the Hindu Monkey God. But with Phillips' soulful vocal rendition over Rizzo's lush lounge moods, it becomes sensual as much as spiritual.

Looking Through Leaves is rounded out by three electronic instrumentals that are a mixture of new romantic moods and edgy angst. That balance is perfectly matched on the opening track, "Through the Storm," which serves as an album prelude, the drifting ambiences of "Strada" and the CD's closer, a Blade Runner homage called "Element of Hope."

Often, an Echoes CD of the Month is made for low lights and internal ruminations. Looking Through Leaves is contemplative as well, as long as you're doing it driving down the highway with the windows open and the stereo cranked.