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BELLE BOUSSOLE—S/T(!Wanderlust Sound)

If there’s anything that’s true of the Hudson Valley music scene, it’s that it’s impossible to pin down. Long the domain of sleek European cities, the electro-soul sound is alive and well in the music of Belle Boussole.

Belle Boussole’s self-titled debut is a labor of love for married couple Bryan and Nicole McGurn. A tribute to the imported Acid Jazz Bryan heard during six months spent in Hong Kong, Belle Boussole’s lineage can be directly traced back to the work of artists like the Brand New Heavies and Sweetback, with a futuristic electronic sheen.

Dancefloor dramas like “Hearts Went Black” and “Native Island” are what make the album a perfect soundtrack for summer nights both hot and cool, with the former’s pulsating rhythm track and keyboard flourishes as light and refreshing as the best gin & tonic you’ve ever had.

But it’s not all up-tempo disco, either. “Chocolate Cake” so successfully evokes classic soul it’s almost shocking it’s not a cover. “Free Tonight” also brings the BPM and mood down to a level best associated with getting close to someone special. The strength of Belle Boussole’s conviction is that the songs are as strong whether entirely assembled by Bryan McGurn as they are when live drums and bass enter the mix, as on the outstanding “Walk With Me”.

Belle Boussole’s stellar debut is at once familiar and futuristic, no small feat in a world where artists often lean in one direction at the exclusion of the other. —Crispin Kott


Though it’s clear it was meant to imply eclecticism, Melinda DiMaio’s self-named JaFoCo (jazz, folk, country) sound takes something of a hit on the opening number, “Leap of Faith,” which employs Caribbean flourishes. It does so quite effectively, and technically that’s a form of folk music, too. And while much of See Through really does work with the descriptive, it doesn’t give DiMaio nearly enough credit.

“Sliver of the Moon,” See Through’s second track fits snugly under the stylistic umbrella, DiMaio’s honey sweet voice and guitar duties shared with Mark Dziuba a smooth jazz and folk success. Country comes into play one song later, with the down home lyrics and fiddle-fuelled “Keep the Light On”.

Because DiMaio and her confederates have no quarrel with breaking down barriers, the album doesn’t blend styles as often as it moves from mood to mood, feeling more like a compilation or mixtape with a vocal thread keeping the whole thing together. That’s not meant as criticism, especially from someone who enjoys putting his mp3 player on random and letting the iGods figure out what comes next. DiMaio’s stubborn decision to not be pinned down, along with her fluid guitar playing and warm voice, is what sets See Through apart from the pack. —Crispin Kott


For a guy who’s spent much of his professional career playing guitar with some of music’s leading lights, David Malachowski fits into the one man band mould rather comfortably. Everything on the 5-track EP The Secret Life of Colonel David, with the exception of songwriting duties on a Robert Johnson cover (“Cross Road Blues”), is the work of Malachowski. Every guitar lick, each drum beat, every composition and arrangement; He also produced the music, and for the sake of wild completion, utilized samples recorded with his iPhone or taken from his own archives. If it’s all been leading up to this point for Malachowski, it certainly shows in the effort.

Midway through, Malachowski’s chops really shine through on “I’m Goin’ Down to Newberg” (sic). Sure, there’s a chorus in complex 7/4 time, and some truly magical guitar playing. It’s as an axeman where Malachowski really shines, not just in his skill, but also his restraint. Some guitarists let loose on their own peel off explosive solos which ultimately are more about showing what they’re capable of than anything else. Malachowski is indeed talented, but he plays within the music, never going too far.

Whether plugged in and amped up (“Jump Up”) or stripped down (“New Circle Ride”), Malachowski’s guitar (and vocals, and everything else) is well worth your attention. The only gripe one might come away with is that, at just five tracks, The Secret Life of Colonel David doesn’t go far enough. It’s a series of snapshots leaving one wanting to see much more. —Crispin Kott

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