REVIEW: CarbonWorks “Vanishing Act”


CarbonWorks – Vanishing Act

North Dakota’s Neal Barnard grew up in cattle country with an interest in avant-garde music. That may not register with the high-brow musicians of New York, Boston & L.A., but he does score effectively. Since 2016 musicians & singers from such diverse countries as Italy, France & the U.S. added classical & rock touches.

This 2nd studio CD as CarbonWorks finds Vanishing Act (Independent-Drops April 21) performers pushing boundaries again & they create a current that keeps the wires warm. There are 10 tracks & the singers even vocalize in their own language to render some quirky, interesting & challenging music. It’s quite an ensemble. The CD includes a stitched lyrical insert with nice color images.

Subjectively, lyrics are a stretch since they explore what makes the world complex with philosophical perspectives, song titles like “Athena,” (the goddess of war) & they even touch upon the Beats. However, the showcase is never heavy-duty, leaden or preachy. It’s balanced with expertise.

It has a logical flow & the foreign touch is never detrimental. Music has a way of translating – people bought “La Vie En Rose,” & “Dominique,” & didn’t understand French, they bought “Volare,” & “O Solo Mio,” & didn’t understand Italian. That’s what makes music compelling – it’s understood instinctively if the head is wired to the heart. 


There isn’t anything outlandish and what it achieves with class is taking bits of music from other sources & re-animating it with the CarbonWorks originality. The vocals on “Athena,” can be reminiscent of the breathy soft French 60s chanteuse style of Claudine Longet mixed with the warm near-Paul Winter Consort sax vibrancy. The fusion guitar notes & deep bass creates a beautifully atmospheric melody.

What looks unattainable on paper actually is dramatic in “International Anthem.” A weave of several national anthems into one percussive patriotic blend. Anthems from the U.S., U.K., France, Italy & Germany segue. It’s not silly at all. It’s quite imaginative. 


Rockier is “Marie Osmole,” which ignites with wailing sax, the snap of thunderous drums & fiery violin. A well-driven piece. The quirky “Training That Works,” comes on in a Talking Heads type of attraction. A nice electro-funky eccentric workout that’s infectious.

“Nocturne,” steps lightly & briefly into Phillip Glass/Robert Fripp’s territory while the sublime “Song For An Angel,” has Euro-overtones with a light Paul Mauriat (“Love Is Blue”) musical caress.

Highlights – “Athena,” “International Anthem,” “Marie Osmole,” “Training That Works,” excellent drums on “Sparrows,” “Nocturne” & “Song For An Angel.”

Musicians – Dolche, Lara Lotz & Martha Roebuck (vocals), Allegra Havens (violin/viola), Jeffrey Phelps (cello), Shea Roebuck (bass), Mike Stetina & JJ Bower (drums), Bob Gray (vocals/guitar/bass), Bobby Read (sax), Jeremy Garnett (trumpet), Adam Robles (tuba), Katja Albrecht, Gaby Caplan & Brian Stivale (spoken word) & Neal Barnard (guitar/vocals/keyboards).

Color image courtesy of Neal’s FaceBook. The 39-minute CD @

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