Star People
(SOAR, 2001)

The album begins with a Native American narrative over a synthesized backdrop. I thought I might be in store for an album of ambient mysticism Brule founder and keyboardist Paul LaRoche has something else in mind. "Star People," the first track on the CD of the same name, quickly kicks into a techno beat with pop-inspired melodies built around the flute, played by Nicole LaRoche. The entire album fits that mold, wrapping dance-club sensibilities around a nugget of Native American spirit.

The music reflects the dichotomy of Paul LaRoche's own upbringing. As he explains, he grew up in a "white middle-class family in rural Minnesota," only learning after his adoptive parents' deaths that his roots are with the Lakota Sioux. He reconnected with his people at the Lower Brule Sioux Reservation in South Dakota and has since blended musical styles in Brule.

Star People provides a mix of danceable pop and more reflective numbers. Anyone looking for Native American chants or lonely flutes played on windswept buffalo plains should look elsewhere. Brule is unapologetically modern in its execution, and the result is more "white middle-class" than Lakota. But the root is there -- primarily evident through aspects of the flute, percussion and subtle, chant-like vocals -- and it adds a pleasant, ethnic touch to the overall sound.

[ by Tom Knapp ]
Rambles: 13 April 2002

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