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This album, not to be confused with the ECM New Series effort of the same name, was Dino Saluzzi’s first for the label. Using only his two hands, the bandoneón master brings out the multifarious qualities of his instrument as no other can. In this music we feel decades upon decades of history compressed into every squeeze of the bellows, and find ourselves surrounded by yearned-for lands and traditions. Into these we are ceremoniously welcomed through “Kultrum Pampa – Introducción Y Malambo” (Introduction And Malambo). Flute and drum draw us out from the cave of our ignorance and into the rising dawn, where nothing but an open circle awaits us with the promise of life. A voice chants, lifting a feather with every word and dropping it into our memory. We disavow the codes that divide our skins and minds, that bind our resolve to ideology, that whisk away our honor and truth to false idols. This blending of chant and song enhances the sacredness of both. It is one of three longish pieces on the album, which include the stunning “Agua De Paz” (Water Of Peace), one of the most gorgeous Saluzzi has ever recorded, and the rushing current of “El Rio Y El Abuelo” (The River And The Grandfather), in which he brings his veritably orchestral sound to mountainous light. There are moments in this piece that, especially around the 3:10 mark, sound exactly like the penultimate fade of Erkki-Sven Tüür’s Illusion. Such unintended moments of confluence merely hint at the reach of Saluzzi’s playing. Similarly, the handful of shorter pieces on Kultrum seem to flirt with their own watery reflections, coming to a head in the three-part suite “Ritmo Arauca” (Arauca Ritual). This life cycle is woven in earth and ice by a shuttle of elemental percussion. What was once the ceremony now becomes all-knowing life, a landscape where towering figures mingle with those too small to imagine, where the wind and the sunlight share a common yarn, where the elevation of a human life depends solely on how it falls. Again, Saluzzi’s voice emerges alone, as much soothsayer as it is curious child. Fans of Ken Fricke’s Baraka will also recognize here the shared Andean roots of Inkuyo’s “Wipala.” At last, “Pasos Que Quedan” (Steps That Stay) calls us back into the smoke where we began, where only our selves await, purified by sky and song in “Por El Sor Y Por La Lluvia” (For The Sun And For The Rain).

This album proves Saluzzi’s value not only as a musician, but also as a living heart of which music is blood. He is a master in the truest sense, which is to say that he pours forth through his instrument, as his instrument, showing us that the only way down his musical path is to close our eyes and let our feet guide us. Without question, one of ECM’s top 10 of all time.

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