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Album Review

Storywaters began life as the soundtrack to a stage presentation regularly performed at the Tjapukai Aboriginal Cultural Park near Cairns, North Queensland, Australia. However, it sounds completely different outside of that context; listened to on its own, as a six-part, 48-minute song cycle, it sounds bizarrely like a quasi-aboriginal world music answer to Serge Gainsbourg's over the top orchestral pop masterpiece Histoire de Melody Nelson. That can't possibly be what songwriter/producer Mark Mannock was going for, but the comparisons are nonetheless obvious: Roy Banning's murmuring spoken word sections, delivered in a soft-spoken but cavernously deep growl, recall Gainsbourg's own recitations (except on the 18-minute "Storywaters Trilogy," where the closest comparison is Ken Nordine), and the use of female vocal choirs, orchestral coloring, and repeated melodic motifs is similarly familiar. Only the regular appearance of didjeridoo and Australian percussion keeps the Southern Hemisphere feel going; without them, songs like "When Do I Cry" are merely middle-of-the-road easy listening ballads. It's perhaps a bit mean to listen to Storywaters in this spirit of fun, but it's certainly the most entertaining way to approach the album; listened to completely straight, Storywaters is overbearing kitsch, no closer to the truth of aboriginal music than Martin Denny was to the sound of the tropical Pacific.

Storywaters, Tjapukai
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