Chriss Sutherland, a founding member of local legends Cerberus Shoal and Fire on Fire, recently made his latest musical step in the form of Olas, a flamenco-soaked world music outfit. Their debut album, “La Perla,” is a rich collection of songs informed by an eclectic body of folk traditions.
From the first few moments of the disc, it’s clear that Olas did their homework and did it well. Here, Spanish flamenco is woven through North African sounds, back into Cuban sounds and laced with traces of American folksong. The most impressive aspect of this hodgepodge of styles is that none of its sounds are affected.
There are moments of “La Perla” that could easily pass for authentic examples of all the styles of music that Olas draws upon. When Sutherland cuts loose and reaches for the top of his vocal range, he even displays an abandon that hints at Federico Lorca’s beloved “Duende,” the life-or-death-style delivery that is coveted by all true flamenco singers.
To these ears, some of the tracks on “La Perla” repeat themselves a bit too much. They walk a tricky line between verse/chorus structure and repetitious dance-oriented games of recurrence. However, I assume that in a live setting this issue would disappear altogether.
After all, this is live music. Flamenco, in particular, is functional music designed to accompany dancing. And divorced from that, the experience of the music alone tends to differ from listener to listener and performer to performer.
Still, there is such a rare sense of authentic adoration and devotion to world music sounds here that I would not be surprised if Olas went on to great success. It will be interesting to see where the group heads next as they establish themselves onstage and (hopefully) begin writing “La Perla’s” follow-up.