New forms, new truths
ABC Music through EMI
Review by Barry Healy
A new release by Australian world music group Sirocco is always welcome. I've lost track of how long their swirling mix of Irish whistle, didgeridoo, percussion and keyboards rounded out with a myriad of other instruments has been with us. It feels like they've always been there, gently nestled in the background, setting the standard against which other practitioners of world music are to be measured.
Falling Leaf is part of the ABC Soundscapes series, but don't be fooled into thinking that Sirocco have lost their edge and descended into the "flute-plus-forest-sounds" school of New Age rubbish. This atmospheric homage to Australia's rainforests demonstrates again Sirocco's firm control of their material and style — gentle without being bland, eclectic yet certain, internationalist but distinctly Australian.
The opening track, "Majestic Forest", sets the tone. Opening with bazouki and solid drumming, it slowly winds its way through Egyptian flute sounds to a gentle climax before ending with the original rhythm and riff.
Other tracks follow other diverse musical journeys. Sometimes you could swear you are listening to Celtic folk music, then within moments it's coloured with Chinese sounds, an oud or a synthesiser.
Sirocco say in the liner notes that Australia has the greatest resources known to musicians, a country containing musicians from all around the world unencumbered by centuries of "what should be done". This is a splendid statement of all that is possible in the "new world", the ability to reshape old traditions into new forms and discover new truths.
Sirocco synthesise and demonstrate the finest elements of Australian culture and history without being didactic. That a nation which has spent so much time destroying its forests and landscape, committing genocide against its native peoples and participating in imperialist adventures could produce such a sensitive document as this speaks volumes and holds the promise of a better future.