Planet Passion

by Ancient Future

Original Reviews of 2002 Release

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Reviews: Internet

“Aptly named, ‘Planet Passion’ turns tantalizing poly-cultural rhythms and passionate melodies into sizzling, sexy music guaranteed to melt stereo speakers as well as hearts and inhibitions. It is music that irresistibly moves both body and soul. But then, one expects nothing less from the visionary players for whom the description "world fusion" was coined. Laying the groundwork for some of today's most successful worldbeat acts like Jai Uttal and the Pagan Love Orchestra, Vas, Dead Can Dance and even the jazz-worldbeat band, Shadowfax, Ancient Future has grown into a global village of 19 musicians whose rich heritage includes erotic rhythms, sensuous voices and inspired instrumentation from Africa, India, Asia (especially Bali), South America and the Middle East. The tunes included are diverse, yet equally captivating, evoking all that is most appealing about music from a global village.”CDNOW.COM

RHYTHM TRACK - Ancient Future: Bringing the Planet Together Through Music and Passion
By Elizabeth Goodwin

As a teenager growing up in Boulder, Colo., guitarist Matthew Montfort had a vision about the path that he wanted his music to take: a blending of musical forms and styles from all around the world with his own music. For Montfort, the decision to pursue world fusion would be a lifelong course. He explains the road that led to creating his band, Ancient Future.

"In high school I had decided that I wanted to create music by fusing different types of music, and I thought, Why stop with jazz, rock and classical music?" he says optimistically. "So that's why I came to California to study Indian music, because I wanted to learn about different music from all around the world and use that to create new fusion."

Creating new fusion is ongoing for the affable Marin County, Calif., resident, who moved to the Bay Area in 1977. Montfort studied at the Ali Akbar College of Music in San Rafael, Calif., under master sarodist Ali Akbar Khan, has a bachelor's degree in world music and composition, and a master's degree in arts and media technology from Antioch University. Ancient Future, which celebrated its 24th anniversary in November 2002, was formed with his friends Benjy Wertheimer and Mindia Devi Klein, and Montfort hasn't stopped shaping the group since. There are currently 19 gifted musicians in AF, including Klein and Wertheimer, but there are also 12 different versions of the burgeoning band, which keeps the soundscape fresh and invigorating. Maintaining freshness in his approach to music is essential to Montfort, whose music knows no borders. True to the spirit of the do-it-yourself independent musician, he manages AF, books the concerts and designs their extremely thorough and well-implemented website. He is good-humored, thoughtful and staunchly stubborn – all attributes that enable him to get things done on his own terms in a mercurial music industry.

"I knew early on that if I went into music there [are] two approaches: There's playing whatever music sells, in which case you're supporting the whole corporate status quo," he says, sounding weary of the manner in which the music industry devours the independent musician and yet enthusiastic about his own mission. "Or I could make music that would happen if we're going to survive on this planet. I chose the latter approach, which was definitely the more difficult approach, but it seemed to me no point in making the music that was dictated by the corporate powers that be, because I might as well be an accountant at that point," he jokes, chuckling at the reality of having served the band in that capacity as well.

Longevity is the secret to Ancient Future's success. They have recorded seven albums. Their latest, aptly titled Planet Passion, is their strongest record to date. Recorded for their own label, Ancient-Future.com Records, the CD contains a melange of musical flavors which contains the ever-tasty Ancient Future recipe: Nepalese, Greek, Chinese, Celtic, Afro-Cuban, Balinese, Arabic, Slavic and, of course, Indian elements, served up on a platter of love. Planet Passion is a tale of love that chronicles the myriad romantic stages in a relationship: "Flirtation," "Nature of Courtship," "Sacred Eros: Invoking the Spirits of Love", "The Wedding: Becoming One," "Seduction" and "Longing for the Beloved.'' Many of the tunes are traditional, while others were either penned, co-written or arranged by Montfort, who plays the unique scalloped fretboard guitar, which he defines as "an instrument combining aspects of the South Indian vina with the steel string guitar." Highlights of the 12-song disc include the tender beauty of "Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonochek," which features the sultry, ethereal vocals of Irina Mikhailova, who also lends her talents to the breezy, floating "Ocean of Love"; the soaring, urgent violin delivery by Georges Lammam on another of Montfort's jewels, "El Zaffa"; Montfort's guitar showcase, the hypnotic "I Mett (sic) Her in the Medowe" (sic); and the happy-go-lucky, lighthearted "Forest Frolic."

Montfort clearly demonstrates that he had a concept and adhered to it. "What I was trying to figure out was how to actually show people that we all belong together," he points out in a more somber tone, suggesting that our world is sorely lacking harmony in every sense of the word. "And love seemed to be a good way to do that because it's the primal emotion that we all share, no matter what culture you're from. I wanted to see if I could create a story that would go through many different traditions and show the unity but yet show the diversity." It sounds like Ancient Future has lived up not only to Montfort's original vision but also is exploring some other uncharted vistas.BEYONDMAINSTREAM.COM

"Ancient Future is an East-meets-West band which has deep roots in India, but has been exploring the Middle East more and more over the years.

 The band revolves and evolves around guitarist Matthew Montfort, who plays a specially-made scalloped neck guitar similar to the veena of Southern India. Matthew can sound more like an Indian-stringed instrument than John McLaughlin did in his Shakti days, and John's guitar is not only scallop-necked, but has resonating or sympathetic strings as well.

 The first two songs are of flirtation, the next three focus on courtship, the next two sex (or as Ancient Future refers to it, as 'sacred Eros'); then we have two songs about the wedding, then problems begin with a tune on seduction. The last two cuts both called 'Socha Socha' focus on longing for the beloved.  So the ending is a bit sad; but even this section is beautiful to listen to.

 The musicians are all top rank, the playing is superb, and the influences varied, from gentle ragas to Afro-Cuban drum rhythms. Exciting stuff, yet somehow spiritual most of the time without being preachy.

 Ancient Future's always evolving, almost always exciting. Their extensive web site offers insights, explanations, and a diverse focus on the band's evolutionary phases, influential members, and fusion of Middle East/Indian sounds."
D. C. Donovan, Editor, WORLDDISCOVERIES.NET (see also full review text)

"Incredible how Ancient Future as one of the first delvers into the genre succeeds in describing musically the world music fusion in its completeness. While before they varied more in different world music and contemporary fusion ideas, here the music is like traveling throughout the whole world, from one rhythm/county/world music genre to another with a basic structure. They now have become a perfect chamber world music band (basic nice rhythms, ethnic flutes and a fantastic acoustic guitars duo, enriched with various other acoustic instruments.

This band counts 19 members all mastering in their world music starting point from Indian, Nepalese, African, Cuban, Celtic ,Middle Eastern, Indonesian, Chinese, East European and American world fusion music origins, and some female accompanying vocals. A beautiful release to travel the world, a listening experience without leaving your starting place. ****"
Gerald Van Waes, PSYCHE VAN HET FOLK

"As World Music goes, few artists cover as much ground (pun intended) as Ancient Future in form and instrumentation."

"Subtitled, A Mythical Story Of Love Around The World, this ever-changing lineup of musicians effortlessly transport the listener from atop the Himalayas ("Simsimay Panima"), to Cuba ("Ochun"), India ("Alap", "Socha, Socha"), Spain ("El Zaffa"), and Eastern Europe ("Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonochek") as well as mythical forests, meadows, and oceans."

"Excellent playing, arrangements, and production make Planet Passion a fine CD for fans of World Music, or those who simply want to escape to exotic locations without leaving home. 4.5 STARS."
Gina Morris, Evolution Of Media

"This is true "world music", a fusion of western and "alternate" scales, middle eastern and polynesian-sounding percussion, odd acoustic instruments from around the world, and a generally uplifting feel to all the pieces. I'm sure that many fans of symphonic prog or more harsh music (RIO, avant-garde or progressive metal) would proclaim this album to be "boring", but it is certainly not predictable, and exhibits a high level of musicianship from all participants. Excellent quality recording too. I recommend this for those days when you don't need the "slap you in the face" complexity of much prog stuff, but are ready for the more patient, introspective kinds of subtle complexity an album like this has to offer. Recommended." – Fred Trafton, GEBRALTAR ENCYCLOPEDIA OF PROGRESSIVE ROCK

"Prologue. "Passion Planet" is the seventh album by the World Fusion pioneers Ancient Future. According to the CD's press kit, 'It is a perfect romantic gift featuring 19 world music masters telling a love story through world music about flirtation, courtship, gods of love, betrothal, seduction, and longing for the beloved'."

"The Album. First off, this album clearly shows that Ancient Future's World Fusion has nothing to do with the (ambient) World music style. Stylistically, "Planet Passion" represents a real fusion of the musical forms of the various nations of Earth, which, though, is based on such structures of the composition and arrangement that we use to call Prog Fusion. Highly diverse in sound, all of the ten compositions, that are featured on the album, are filled with very tasteful and diverse arrangements created by the masterly solos and passages of each of the soloing musicians and interplay between them as well. Some of the guitar, flute, and violin solos are so fast and virtuosi that they can remind you of jazzy improvisations, though actually, all of them were thoroughly composed by the laws of the 5-tone Eastern school and traditional, classical one as well. The mixed 'construction' of all of the album's tracks, based on the two different schools of composition, makes them especially impressive. There are only two real songs on "Passion Planet" (Ochun and Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonochek, tracks 5 & 9), while all of the other tracks are instrumental. There are however, lots of female vocalizes on one of them - Ocean of Love (track 4). Ochun is the only song that features both male (by Pedro De Jesus) and female (by Irina Mikhailova) vocals, while on Ocean of Love and Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonochek Irina sings alone. On Ochun, Pedro's vocal parts remind of the traditional Afro-Cuban (not Spanish!) man's singing. Irina's parts are more melodic: these can remind one of the Afro-Cuban ritual refrains. Her beautiful voice fits nicely for the rich instrumental textures of Ocean of Love, but especially wonderful Irina sings (in Russian) on the Russian old folk song Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonochek. Musically, Ochun is full of African motives. Ocean of Love represents a blend of the West and East European melodic lines that develop to the accompaniment of African percussion instruments. In a Russian manner, Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonochek (It is Impossible to Squeeze So Big a Barrel In This Cellar) can be described as "there is the smell of a Russian spirit here". What is interesting is all of the other tracks (all of which are instrumental) are, on the whole, devoted to the music of the East, one way or another. Sinsimay Panima, Forest Frolic, Semara, Alap, & Socha Socha (tracks 1,2,6,7,10) are just filled with Indian, Arabic, Chinese etc., musical atmospheres. Based on the exceptionally tasteful and virtuosi solos and passages of Matthew Montfort's acoustic (scalloped fretboard!) and electric guitars, various Eastern flutes, violins, and even (kind of) the Eastern vibraphone, the arrangements of each of these compositions develop constantly. Although there are only two instruments heard on Alap (scalloped fretboard guitar and violin), the interplay between them is simply fantastic. Apart from Eastern flavours, a magnificent I Mett Her In the Medowe (track 3), consisting of virtuosi solos, passages, and interplay between three different acoustic guitars (parts of the two of which were overdubbed), has also Latin American and medieval feels. El Zaffa (track 8), which is probably the most diverse track on the album, was composed with using the 'schemes' (or laws, if you will), of the three musical schools: European Classical, Spanish, and still the same Eastern."

"Summary. Doubtless, this album shows that the band is completely back to form, as there were elements of ambient music in the second half of their previous effort "Asian Fusion". Excellently composed and performed, "Passion Planet" sounds distinctly original and very refreshing, especially in comparison to the uninspired, often totally influenced by the creation of their idols, just repeated works of many of the contemporary performers of Neo Prog. What is more, with the release of the "Passion Planet" album, Ancient Future have once again proved that they're one of the most innovative bands of international Progressive Music movement." *****
Vitaly Menshikov (VM), ProgressoR: Uzbekistan Progressive Rock Pages,11/27/2001

"Ancient Future is THE World Music itself. Listening to their recordings is like travelling through all the cultures of the planet. Their latest CD is a beautiful collection of Nepalese, African, Cuban, Celtic, Arabic, Palestinian, Jewish, Indonesian, Chinese, Eastern European and American tunes. No less than very talented 19 musicians contributed to this rare performance."Fuse This Jazz, JazzWorldQuest.Com

"Ancient future has had seven albums selling more than 150,00 units! they established in 1978. This album is a good showcase of there vast experience in many world fusion instruments. Laid back vibes all led by the guitar there aren't many vocals on the album but you do not loose interest in the album. The album credits read like a world map: for example, one of the album favourites, track 1: Simsimay Panima is a Nepalese folk song with a Bansuri played by Manose Singh. This is typical of Ancient Planet's diversity in each track. Another favourite is the Russian folk song which sounds very heart felt: Ne Po Porgrebu Bochonochek (available on the myspace to listen to), accompanied by a guitar and Tabla! Expect to travel the world with this album, if you like laid back Pathaan style of music, this should be a part of your collection. Contact them via myspace to hear samples of the track and buy there albums."Bopadum.co.uk, Asian Underground Review Site

Anc.-Future.com Rec.Ancient Future : Planet Passion (US/var.,2002)***

"Incredible how Ancient Future as one of the first delvers into the genre succeeds in describing musically the world music fusion in its completeness. While before they varied more in different world music and contemporary fusion ideas, here the music is like traveling throughout the whole world, from one rhythm/county/world music genre to another with a basic structure. They now have become a perfect chamber world music band (basic nice rhythms, ethnic flutes and a fantastic acoustic guitars duo, enriched with various other acoustic instruments.

This band counts 19 members all mastering in their world music starting point from Indian, Nepalese, African, Cuban, Celtic ,Middle Eastern, Indonesian, Chinese, East European and American world fusion music origins, and some female accompanying vocals. A beautiful release to travel the world, a listening experience without leaving your starting place."Gerald Van Waes, Radioshow PSYCHE v/h FOLK

"Ancient Future is THE World Music itself. Listening to their recordings is like travelling through all the cultures of the planet. Their latest CD is a beautiful collection of Nepalese, African, Cuban, Celtic, Arabic, Palestinian, Jewish, Indonesian, Chinese, Eastern European and American tunes. No less than very talented 19 musicians contributed to this rare performance." JazzWorldQuest.com

"Beautifully soothing, romantic without being sappy. This is one of the most beautiful CDs I own. Matt Montfort is an amazingly skilled and tastful guitar player. If you've ever seen him perform, you know what I mean. But what makes Planet Passion such a wonderful album is how generous he is with the other contributors to the Ancient Future project and what a terrific ensemble they are. This isn't a "guitar" album or a "Vocal" album, though every element has more than one chance to shine and charm. There is a tremendous amount of skill and intellect going on in this album if that's what you're looking for, but as with all masters of their craft, Ancient Future make it sound easy. You don't need to be a musician or a music critic to love this album. It is romantic, it's soothing with sweet melodies and comfortable music that never ever becomes predictable, sappy or trite. This album is as enjoyable in the car (making heavy traffic seem like an opportunity to relax) as it is at home, inspiring candle light, bubble bath, and ...well, you get the idea. It's a soft album, but not the kind of soft album that puts you to sleep. It takes no time at all to appreciate this album and it still holds up more than a year later. Anyway, I highly recommend it, whether you're an Ancient Future fan or not. Buy it. You won't be disappointed." CD Baby Customer Review by Rhett Redelings-MacDermott, City of Sausalito Technology Manager

"A true 'world music' album, featuring (no less than) 19 masterful players, 'Planet Passion' will turn your ears on from th' first bar. It conveys a sense of joy (so rare these days) unbounded, and mixes musical styles all the way from east to west. Due to the large number of musicians involved, the album features a different band on each track... don't let that dissuade you from purchasing/listening to it, though; this is some of the best music you'll ever hear! There is a heavy emphasis on acoustic instruments and strings in the crafting of each of their songs, with strong rhythmic elements on each... I was most impressed with track 9, 'El Zaffa'... whirling dervish with definite middle eastern flavor/energies. For something that leans more toward ballad/blues (even though instrumental), try the last cut, 'Socha Socha'. This is truly music with (and from the) spirit, & gets a MOST HIGHLY RECOMMENDED from us, especially for those listeners who want something they can treasure for years to come." Rotcod Zzaj, ZZAJ PRODUCTIONS

Reviews: Retail

“Ancient Future is a Bay Area based group and is one of the originators of the influential music genre called ‘world fusion.’ The term was coined in 1978 to describe the exciting new music the band was then creating. Developing through various incarnations over the years, Ancient Future has now produced what might be their best work yet. The theme of ‘Planet Passion’ is love, from initial flirtation, to courtship, to union and longing again for the beloved. Matthew Montfort, the band’s leader and guitarist extraordinaire, put together this winning ensemble and did the artful arrangements. While there are many beautifully performed ethnic instrumentations and voices, from Nepalese to Balinese to Russian, the overall sound is distinctive, inventive and, appropriate enough, seductive. ‘Planet Passion’ is a perfect CD for being marooned for a long time with someone you really, really like.”Lee Starkey, EAST WEST MAGAZINE, East West Bookshop

Reviews: Radio

#1 Echoes TOP 20. #19 NAV Chart. 585 reporting programs as of 7/02. Echoes Essential 2002 CD. Echoes Listener Poll Winner 2002.

"Ancient Future weren't the first to merge music from around the world, but they were the ones who coined the term world fusion. They've been living that vision for a quarter of a century. Now, after a nine-year silence, they've released another powerful reminder of that dream. India has always been at the heart of Ancient Future's world fusion. Founder and only remaining original member Matthew Montfort plays a special, scalloped fretboard acoustic instrument that lets him get the bends of an Indian sitar. He uses it to weave seductive melodies, and his exchanges with Indian sitarist Habib Khan on 'Socha, Socha' are exhilarating. Singer Irina Mikhailova, from Medicine Drum and Lumin is the first vocalist in Ancient Future. Singing in vocalese and her native Kazakh tongue, she is intoxicating. From the gamelan cycles of 'Semara' to the exuberance of 'Forest Frolic,' Ancient Future is the sound of the global bazaar in ecstasy.”John Diliberto (host of Echoes, syndicated on 175 stations), AMAZON.COM

"Ancient-Future’s compositions are built on flavors of exotic rhythms that retract and morph seamlessly from rock to flamenco, jazz to eastern, soul to African for a very tasteful eclectic blend. I would describe the experience as alive, sensual, soulful and erotic (really great for meditation, massage, dancing, tantra, sensual experiment and experience).

Socha Socha hooked me immediately with its first 4 bars! It simply exudes and oozes with sensuality with its mysterious, haunting and beautiful melody line. My body really loves it!"Chandi Devi, Editor-in-Chief, KarmaCaffe.com, Host of KarmaCaffe Spiritual Hour on BlogTalkRadio.Com

Reviews: Print

“Shamelessly beautiful, ‘Planet Passion’ is easily the pinnacle of this group's long career.” Bob Tarte, THE BEAT

"From romantic sitar on ‘Socha Socha’ to light, delicate vocals on ‘Ocean of Love,’ and ranging across multiple continents for musical origins, Ancient Future's Planet Passion album offers a lot to be enthusiastic about. The band is the longest-performing world fusion group, having formed in 1978, yet they retain their inventiveness in developing new sound and style melds. ‘I Mett Her in the Medowe’ [is] a mysterious Scottish mandora melody from 1615 with the ornaments and note bends of the scalloped fretboard guitar, an instrument combining aspects of the South Indian vina with the steel string guitar. Again, it's an elegant success. ‘Ne Po Pogrebu Bochonocheck’ is about a young couple's first night together. It features vocals by artist Irina Mikhailova, which combine effectively, if almost eerily, with the band's Eastern sound. Meanwhile, ‘El Zaffa’ brings in the Arabic influence of a lively wedding march, and becomes another of Ancient Future's excellent adaptations. ‘Forest Frolic’ is a playful, spritely conjunction of bamboo flute work by two Asian flute virtuosos. Chinese multi-instrumentalist Liu Qi-Chao and Nepali bansuri master Manose Singh join efforts, and the result is truly splendid – joyous and lilting. What a welcome return for Ancient Future. Devotees of the best in world fusion will surely wish to add ‘Planet Passion’ to their collections.” Murrday Fisher, ALL MUSIC GUIDE

“When it comes to world music, ‘Planet Passion’ is probably the most accessible offering this reviewer has heard to date, making it a very highly recommended musical gift to all lovers of world fusion."Robert Walmsley, OMEGA

“Both in its musical content and in its packaging, the seventh Ancient Future CD is a perfect romantic gift. Whether you choose to make this a gift to your loved one or yourself, odds are that it will be your album of the month, too, as it is ours.” NEW TIMES

“‘Planet Passion’ is an exquisite musical valentine, combining breathtaking melodies, rhythms, and instrumentation from Africa, India, Asia, South America, and the Middle East. Each track is so lovely, so evocative, that it is difficult to single out favorites.”AQUARIUS

"Planet Passion" is the seventh album by the California-based world fusion group Ancient Future. The theme of this acoustic album is love: flirtation, courtship, betrothal and seduction. The band also has a Web site at www.ancient-future.com. This album features over 19 musicians from around the world, including Matthew Montfort (guitars), Ustad Habib Khan (sitar), Ian Herman (drums), Manose Singh (flute), Liu Qi-Chao (Chinese flute) and Mindia Klein (bansuri). Our picks on this album include the instrumentals Simsimay Panima (based on a Nepali folk song), I Mett Her in the Medowe (Scottish melody), and El Zaffa (Egypian wedding music). Ocean of Love, an Afro-Asian melody, has pleasing vocals as well."Madanmohan Rao, RAVE INDIA, 3/2006

"A very gentle, peaceful, loving taste of music – a well-needed antidote to much of the noise out there..."Ira Landgarten, Music Writer for INDIAN MUSIC NEWSLETTER, FREE SPIRT, and the ALI AKBAR COLLEGE OF MUSIC.

Reviews: Dance DJs

“I wanted to thank you for sending me the promo copy of Planet Passion. I've listened to it a few times now and it's been a treat. The packaging is beautiful.” DJ Skyede Productions, 3/8/2006