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Matt Venuti and his band, the Venusians, have been dubbed ‘The Emissaries of Sonic Shamanism.’ They began their musical journey playing for San Francisco and Silicon Valley audiences and were soon performing at major events like Burning Man.

Part of the attraction is Venuti’s mastery of newly-invented instruments: the Hang, the Gubal, and Hang Gu, in addition to the Electronic Valve Instrument (EVI). The underlying tones provided by these unique instruments adds a fascinating quality to the songs presented on the album.

Venuti sings with female back-up vocalists. The lyrics distill life experience, some good some bad. Track 4: The Rhythm of Life (title track) underscores the need to connect with the whole world in positive ways. The album includes a cover of Bill Wither’s “Lean on Me,” a classic Mo-Town song that just never gets old.

The musical style has been labeled “ambient fusion” and “acoustic alternative,” but the music extends in directions beyond those limiting labels. Venuti and his cadre appear to be in the vanguard of musicians leading the way into a true 21st century pop sound, integrating old and new instruments and song genres with east-west rhythms that are funneled through the vehicle of the singer-songwriter’s breadth of expression.

This album, while unusual, is well-worth listening to. The music is entertaining and the lyrics are surprisingly meaningful and sprinkled with sparks of insight and the quirks of existence. The ensemble work is top-notch, as is the engineering quality. The sophisticated rhythms and instrumentation carry the listener along with the songs.  

~review by Elizabeth Hazel

Artist: Matt Venuti
Matt Venuti, 2016
10 tracks, 47 minutes
Amazon - CD $18.95, mp3 download $8.99.

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