For those who have a Dead Can Dance-shaped hole in their hearts since the group's dissolution -- and for those who liked them but were put off by their occasional goth dalliances -- take heart. Vas has picked up where DCD left off.
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Vas is the duo of vocalist Azam Ali and multi-instrumentalist Greg Ellis, and like Dead Can Dance, they specialize in combining traditional rhythms and harmonies of the Middle East, India, and the Balkans with sleek elements of medieval music. (They've contributed to the soundtracks of the last two Matrix movies, but let's not hold that against them). Recalling DCD's Lisa Gerrard and Hungarian folksinger Márta Sebestyén, Iranian-born Ali -- singing in Farsi, English, and what might be a made-up dialect -- has a remarkably expressive and flexible voice. Along with cello and flute, Ellis layers various percussion in cyclical patterns, generating an understated but palpable rapture for Ali's wraith-like voice. Unlike some of their brethren, Vas doesn't attempt to "dazzle" -- they display a sense of restraint, confirming that old "less is more" maxim. This particularly sumptuous Feast should be on the menus of cross-cultural gatecrashers and early music fans alike. -- Mark Keresman