Laura Masotto ~ WE

As we emerge from the pandemic, we have the opportunity to decide again whom we want to be.  Will we concentrate on ourselves: the opportunity to gather, to drink, to insist on the most selfish of our rights?  Or might we focus on the WE, and address the forces that threaten to undo us?  Violinist Laura Masotto has chosen the latter with a life-affirming album that is also a gentle challenge, a reminder of the emergencies that face our planet, from the refugee crisis to climate change.  Her multiple collaborators underline the theme of collaboration, while the blue rock on the cover is a tactile reminder of the blue marble on which we live, further epitomized by the track of the same name.  It’s but one of three early singles that occupy the front half of the album.

The piece is dramatic, but the video’s stark setting makes it even more so: three performers in an illuminated pandemic square and a dancer negotiating markers of light in an otherwise deserted mansion.  Ironically, it’s less blue than the serenade-like “Ithaki,” which features Hior Chronik on kalimba and electronics; and “Refugees,” which highlights the musical tones of Roger Goula and the work of Open Arms, whose mission is to protect refugees approaching Europe by sea.  In this instance a video is more than a video: it’s a teaching device, and an affirmation that humans at their best can be a shelter for those fleeing humans at their worst.

Water figures strongly on at least two other tracks: the self-explanatory “Water,” featuring ATŌMI, a nature-minded electronic artist whose own “Purify” has been making the rounds this year; and “Mare Dentro (The Sea Inside),” which may refer to the film of the same name in which a crippled fisherman battles for the right to end his own life.  But in this movie ~ as well as this album ~ the sea symbolizes life, and any threat to the sea is a threat to all life.  The positioning of the track as the finale leaves the ending wide open, as the sound of waves brings the set to a close.

Overall, the set is more sumptuous than sad.  Even the dramatic “2020” seems more a call to action than an elegy, while “Us,” although mournful on the surface, is a reminder than unity has power. What’s next for humanity?  Will the G7 summit produce results?  Will we stop defending our own interests at the expense of others?  We’ve just emerged from history’s longest pause.  Now we will either turn our attention to fixing things, or go back to prying open the cracks.  (Richard Allen)

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