Does it work? Have fun deciding. The chief strength, IMHO, is the live electronics of the Italian Eritrean Medhin Paolos; she makes much of an art that is in its infancy, that of using electronics to react to other elements in a musical composition. The lead vocals of the singly named Fiamma grab me less. She integrates her dry voice into electronic textures, so that the folk tunes lose the little unsmoothed details that give them their resilience and kick. Any such complaints from an old folkie are minor, however. Electronics are remaking our musical thinking at the most basic level, and what's happening here is that young people are thinking about how to work the past into the new picture. The Ark's speakers may resonate with some sounds they've never transmitted before, but Fiamma Fumana may well be the next stage of folk music.
[Originally published in April, 2005.]
You might also like: