Straight outta Nicosia, Cyprus, the trio of Monsieur Doumani are three young men on a mission to revitalise Cypriot folk music. Their first release, last year’s Cyfolk, saw them tackling eight traditional pieces. This full-length has 11 reworkings and three originals and it’s a strange beast. They develop their soundscape with guitar, tzouras (a local take on the Greek bouzouki) and various wind instruments – predominantly trombone and flute – and all of them pitching in on vocals, sometimes all together. There’s little bottom to the sound, but they more than make up for that with energy and enthusiasm. There are similarities to Greek music, perhaps inevitably, but the music of Cyprus certainly isn’t widely known (okay, hardly known at all, probably even on the island). There’s a warm, Mediterranean quality to it, and the instruments work well together to fashion arrangements, as on “Woman From Tylliria,” and are often very effective. On the instrumental “Syrtos Mavrammatis” the tzouras takes the lead in what’s effectively a circle dance, while trombone provides the counterpoint and the guitar the rhythm that, naturally, speeds up as the piece progresses. Although it’s all a little disconcerting at first, there’s a curious bravado to it all that makes the album very appealing – and no small amount of skill, either. One can only assume that “Young Upwardly Mobile Professional,” with its funk and hip-hop touches welded onto the rhythms, is one of their own pieces. The track is snakelike, strange, and the kind of thing that could find airplay. The album closes with the lengthy and traditional “Wedding Procession Song” (actually the piece ends after almost five minutes, then you have wait two minutes for the bonus cut, although it’s not really worthwhile). If the traditional music of Cyprus had been treated as sacred before (as the band asserts), then the times they are definitely a-changin’ with this release.
– Chris Nickson