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Mia Doi Todd with Andres Renteria

Morning Music

City Zen

May 05, 2009 Web Exclusive Bookmark and Share

Los Angeles folk singer Mia Doi Todd has described her first instrumental music album as “a good way to start the day, though it’s not just for the morning. It’s music to listen to while cooking dinner or making a list of things to do or taking a long, deep breath, or for writing your first screenplay.” Todd’s description seems apt when listening to Morning Music. Influenced by customary Indian, West African, and Middle Eastern music, this seven-track, 44-minute suite drones along as pleasant background music. Todd interweaves Morning Music with plenty of exotic instrumentation and found sounds. Longtime collaborator Andres Renteria plays on “Samai’i” and “Emotion,” where the duo entangles pianos, delicate guitar, and a chirping tin whistle. Both are some of the more intricate and globally diverse pieces on a fairly minimal record.

Renteria taps out the Middle Eastern rhythms of “Samai’i” on a Cuban wooden box-shaped drum called a cajon. On “Emotion,” he plays an udu, a West African clay drum. The remainder of Morning Music‘s running time takes more cues from Indian ambient/drone music. For the piano-driven “Electrafficbirds One” and “Electrafficbirds Two,” Todd recorded tiny birds and bustling cars near her house. As you’d expect, these sounds (and many on the album) bleed into the background. Listening to this in the car is a futile endeavor. Bongos, tamboura, and harmonium coil about the room with little fanfare on “Harmonium One” and “Arise.” Todd’s languid approach is relaxing but teeters just a tad too close to the somnambulist components of new age. The winding milieu of Morning Music makes it something artisan yuppies will gravitate towards for Pilates, yoga, or creating their latest painting, but it contains little replay value for the average listener. (

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