Carmen Sandim

Play Doh
(Ropeadope)

Though Carmen Sandim’s sophomore album is named for the faux-dough beloved by children, Play Doh demonstrates an incredible amount of mature complexity. The recording reveals Sandim’s experiences as an evolving musician, devoted family member and someone with a passion for the sonic character of her Brazilian roots. Not only does the music reflect Sandim’s detailed appreciation for harmony and tonal contrast, it displays a strong sense of self-awareness.

Play Doh’s musicality is approachable without context, despite sporadic appearances by less-familiar Brazilian instruments like the cavaquinho, surdo and pandeiro that fill “Free Wilbie.” Bruce Williamson’s round-toned clarinet on “Isaura” transitions smoothly among notes, while retaining impactful moments as he shares pitches with Khabu Carter Young’s electric guitar. Similarly, the vacillating intensity of Dru Heller’s rim hits during “Undergrowth’s” spooky opening work on more than one level. The shifting 6/8 and 4/4 meters in “Aruru, JuJu” and the placement of a formidably nimble drum solo back-to-back with Young and Sandim’s unison melody on “Me Gusta La Angustia” parallel the emotion and unrelenting progression of real life.