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MELISSA BLOCK, Host:

Lal Meri is a group of three L.A.-based musicians with cultural roots that span much of the globe. Individually, they've made careers in genres ranging from R&B and jazz to rock 'n' roll and trip-hop.

But reviewer Banning Eyre says when the three come together, their music is more than the sum of its parts.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG)

BANNING EYRE: Lal Meri takes its name from this ancient Sufi folk song, part of a mystical tradition that helped expand the reach of Islam around the world in centuries past.

Ecstatic, transcendental Sufi art forms were used to draw people in through direct experience, bypassing dogma and authoritarianism, and in a sense, that's what this unusual trio is all about, unifying listeners of different cultures, beliefs and aesthetics with an irresistibly seductive sound.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "LAL MERI")

BLOCK: (Singing in foreign language)

EYRE: Eastern mysticism and Western pop music have been cross-pollinating since at least The Beatles. In recent years, dance-friendly club mixes rich with sounds from India, Iran and the Arab world have become a cottage industry.

Lal Meri certainly draws from globalista techno-pop, but Nancy Kaye's languid vocals, mostly in English, become a powerful focus. Poetry and form are as important here as atmospherics and groove.

(SOUNDBITE OF SONG "DREAMS OF 18")

BLOCK: (Singing) ...standing at the edge of the road, he could stop her from (unintelligible). The only thing he knows is that tree of painful walls (unintelligible) dreams of 18 with every hit...

EYRE: Lal Meri is the work of three self-described headstrong producers who come together under the potentially insipid banner of, why can't we be together as one?

It's an endeavor that risks dissolving into a well-meaning muddle. Layers of drone vocals and jangling strings swirl together within grooves that range from a lazy lope to a lashing club beat, but the best songs always coalesce around Kaye's charismatic vocals.

(SOUNDBITE SONG "SWEET LOVE")

BLOCK: (Singing) (Unintelligible) crazy baby over you, sweet love (unintelligible) my heart is racing like a (unintelligible).

EYRE: For all the high concept and technical finesse here, these are essentially pop songs with the verses, choruses and elegant vocal hooks, not so far from The Beatles after all.

(SOUNDBITE SONG "SWEET LOVE")

BLOCK: Banning Eyre is senior editor at Afropop.org. You can hear the self- titled debut CD by Lal Meri.

(SOUNDBITE SONG "SWEET LOVE")

BLOCK: (Singing) (Unintelligible).

SIEGEL: You're listening to ALL THINGS CONSIDERED from NPR News.

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