Down-to-earth and unpretentious -- these are terms you'll probably never hear applied to the music of Xyra and Verborgen. From the ice maiden cover art to the liner note thank yous ("To those brave souls who venture onward, in reverent pursuit of their dreams."), the band's new album is definitely a high-concept project.

This is music meant to inspire people to grow -- "It's your human duty to try," we are told on the album's title and opening track. Yet you may find yourself merely growing bored with the album's frequently ponderous lyrics. To wit: "Her canopy of thought looms heavily, as new truth unfolds it, ever after."

There are some interesting diversions, however, including Xyra's passionate cover of Bryan Ferry's "When My Heart Is Still Beating" and her interpretations of songs composed by kindred spirit and vocal role model Nico. The cover of Nico's Jim Morrison tribute, "You Forgot to Answer," is particularly evocative, and also welcome is the album's unexpected coda -- a Goth cabaret arrangement of "My Funny Valentine."

As in the past, Xyra can depend on her bandmates to create the right mood for her musings. The eight-piece band, led by keyboardist Andrew Cann and featuring cellist Fred Lieder and reedman Donald Stapleson, covers a lot of ground, incorporating elements of art-rock, pop and jazz with both imagination and finesse.

Appearing Wednesday at Blues Alley.

To hear a free Sound Bite from Xyra & Verborgen, call Post-Haste at 202/334-9000 and press 8126. (Prince William residents, call 690-4110.)