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last train to lhasa review
(by lorraine ali)

politics and pop music usually don't mix. either there's too much emphasis on the all-important message at the expense of the music, or the message is too simple to really mean much.

on last train to lhasa, though, banco de gaia tucks social commentary into popular music without singing a word. the entirely instrumental u.s. début from this english electronic act driven solely by toby marks focuses on the plight of the tibetan people, but the music is as important as the message.

on the two-disc album's first track marks layers eastern music and chanting over a seductive beat, then winds to a trancey, minimalist finish. on the second track, he wraps snaking horns around a pulsing dance-floor vanishing tibetan culture, and on kincajou (duck! asteroid!), the music takes a turn for the mechanical.

by the end of the album, there's nothing left but a synthesized swirl, the eerie sound of windswept transmissions from astronauts to ground control. The music is too repetitious, too synthetic, but perhaps that's the point.

either way, last train to lhasa isn't a gleaming sonic centerpiece any more than it's a shouted political statement. instead, the album offers a trip into distant realms that's subtle, meaningful, and musically captivating.


reproduced without permission. to be used for private and research use only. original article is here.

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