Written by Thom Jurek for AllMusic.
On Dune, Ottmar Liebert and Luna Negra move away from the sleepy softness that marred 2010’s Petals on the Path. While Dune’s sound is carefully sculpted to reflect the arid Southwest landscape that is the band’s trademark, its compositions are complex, songlike, and adventurous while being thematically linked in abstract fashion.
Although Liebert’s guitars (acoustic and electric) are the focal point, there are a wide variety of textures and musical extensions employed by bassist/keyboardist Jon Gagan, accordionist Char Rothschild, and percussionist Robbie Rothschild. In addition, composer Andrew Gaskins employs a pair of sound designs on the brief “mood locators” at the beginning and end of the album.
This beautifully articulated meld of acoustic and electric instruments recalls moments from Liebert’s past recordings such as Opium, The Hours Between Night + Day, and The Scent of Light. Standouts here include the Moorish scale employed in “Horse,” a nuevo flamenco number that features a lovely dialogue between Liebert’s nylon-string and electric guitars and Char Rothschild’s swirling modal accordion.
“Shadow” shifts between a modern rhumba and a 6/8 beat. The effect is slightly funky when underscored by Gagan’s bassline. Check the breezy yet emotive languages of nuevo flamenco and contemporary jazz on “Sand (Apophenia).”
“On the Road to Shiraz,” begins with a lone Morricone-esque electric guitar before Robbie Rothschild’s handclaps jump into the center. Liebert’s nylon string answers with the melody as Char Rothschild hovers in the backdrop. But it’s the funky skittering of Gagan’s electric bass that finds a counter rhythm; it anchors the tune while simultaneously propelling it forward.
“Five Clouds Lenticular” begins as a keyboard drone before the acoustic guitar comes to the fore, playing a gorgeous 5/4 back and forth in dialogue with itself as Char Rothschild accents the changes. The interplay between the accordion and guitars on “Smoke (Rising in Spirals)” is extended by reverb and other ambient effects.
Dune is an example of cutting-edge nuevo flamenco; Liebert’s confidence in his lyrical vision is total, allowing him and Luna Negra to focus on attention to detail and adventure; consequently, they deliver in spades.