PROGRESSION / SUMMER-FALL 2004
REVIEWED BY MARK NEWMAN

Sound:
Composition:½  
Musicianship: 
Performance: 
Total Rating:  15 ½ [of 16] 
   

Verdun is the brainchild of Neal Barnard, an adventurous guitarist whose previous recordings include the post-new wave Pop Maru followed by Quartet, an enterprising composition for electric band and string quartet.

This short-but-sweet effort mixes metal, electronica, Vietnamese music and torch songs for a brilliant concoction distinguished by some of the most lovely, lilting female vocals around.

Martha Roebuck sings in English in a style slightly reminiscent of Maggie Reilly (Mike Oldfield), while Ngoc Hoang coos in her native tongue. Both women have heavenly voices that work well against the spare edginess of Verdun's music. "Song to a Sparrow"' is one of the prettiest tunes you'll ever hear.

Barnard strikes a good balance between art and anachronism. He writes parts for traditional Asian instruments, but his compositions come across as brave rather than gimmicky. Even the band's covers ("Purple Haze" and "Stand by Your Man") are strikingly original, which makes this one CD definitely worth seeking out.