Crete's master of the Lyra returns in 2004 with a remarkable and criticaly acclaimed recording that brings together a global cast of musicians including Balake Sissoko (kora), Kelly Thomas (lyra), Bijan Chemirani (percussion - zarb and daf) and Pedro Estevan (bendir).
Microkosmos means literally 'Small World', and this CD represents an attempt to explore the possibilities of a small group of musicians rather than the larger orchestra Daly has favoured of late. In such a project the personalities of the musicians are of paramount importance and there is no mistaking the distinctive stamp of Bijan Chemirani (percussion), Kelly Thoma (lyra), Dimitris Psonis (santur), Haris Lambrakis (ney), Balake Sissoko (kora) and Daly himself. As befits the overall concept, Microkosmos contains nine short pieces, and each of these artists has contributed not just to the performance, which includes extensive improvisation, but also to the composition and identity of these pieces.
An especially interesting contribution is that of the Malian musician, Balake Sissoko. His kora playing is a delight, but he seems in addition to have brought out something fresh and creative in Daly and the others. Track three, Balake, is a Daly composition dedicated to Sissoko and on which Sissoko plays. The piece opens with a passage on the rabab (a fretless lute from Afghanistan) that recalls - in both spirit and some of its detail - the optimistic sense of limitless possibility that characterised the Ross Daly album. Balake is formed around a series of short, simple tunes whose pentatonic aspect acknowledges Sissoko's repertoire. To these tunes Sissoko, Daly and Thoma add a delightful sequence of intricate improvisations on the kora, lyra and rabab; this piece, essentially a miniature, is as attractive as anything that Daly has done, and is indeed a microcosm of his work. The same freshness also characterises the simple but unforgettable melody of the closing track, tellingly entitled Epistrophi (Return). - Chris Williams, fRoots