February 24, 2005  




M. Ward
Dead Meadow
Satwa (reissue)
Crooked Fingers
Airborn Audio
Thievery Corporation
Henry Flynt (reissue)
Howling Hex
Lau Nau
Ana da Silva
Clem Snide
Madlib (Mind Fusion mixes)


Iron & Wine (six-song EP)
Nicolai Dunger (reissue)


Arcade Fire (LP version)
Triple R Selection 3 (various)
Aesop Rock

Bembeya Jazz National

MAR Sun 27 Mon 28 Tues 01 Wed 02 Thurs 03 Fri 04 Sat 05
MAR Sun 13 Mon 14 Tues 15 Wed 16 Thurs 17 Fri 18 Sat 19
MAR Sun 20 Mon 21 Tues 22 Wed 23 Thurs 24 Fri 25 Sat 26

Matt Sweeney & Bonnie 'Prince' Billy


Saturday, March 5 @ 9:00 p.m.

Monday, March 14 @ 8:00 p.m.

BRENDAN BENSON (record release party)
Tuesday, March 22 @ 8:00 p.m.

15 East 4th Street NY, NY
Free Admission/Limited Capacity

FEB Sun 20 Mon 21 Tues 22 Wed 23 Thurs 24 Fri 25 Sat 26

Matthew Herbert




Friday, February 25
Spectrum de Montréal: 318, Sainte-Catherine St. West Montréal, Quebec

$33.50 + tax and service CANADIAN DOLLARS
Purchase tickets on-line: mutek.ca & ticketpro.ca Reservations: 1-866-908-9090


Ricardo Villalobos

(rare North American performance)
plus a collective performance from STEVE BEAUPRÉ & SCOTT "DEADBEAT" MONTEITH (of the duo Crackhaus), MIKE SHANNON, MOSSA and JAY HUNSBERGER

Saturday, February 26
JUST FOR LAUGHS MUSEUM: 2111 St-Laurent Blvd 5th Floor, Montréal, Quebec

First 300 tickets @ $25 + service CANADIAN DOLLARS
All others @ $30 + service CANADIAN DOLLARS
Purchase tickets on-line: mutek.ca & admission.com
Reservations: (514) 790-1245

Special NUIT ELECTRONIK & PLAT DU JOUR packages at $49.50 (+ tax and service) Available in limited quantities at mutek.ca and ticketpro.ca

Tickets for both nights also available at:
*MOOG AUDIO - 3830 Saint-Laurent Blvd. Montreal
*ATOM HEART - 364B Sherbrooke East Montreal







$13.99 LP


Transistor Radio

"Paul's Song"
"Four Hours in Washington"

Appropriately titled, the new record from M. Ward is like a ghostly radio transmission that you can only pick up on your tiny transistor radio, hiding under the covers when everyone else has been asleep for hours. Almost defying description with his utter straightforward simplicity, Ward's songs are haunting concoctions of strummed acoustic guitar, lazy piano, brushed or tapped drums and tremolo leads that crackle and hiss as if from another era. Embracing elements of gospel, country, blues and early rock and roll, Ward's melancholy songwriting and expressive voice nonetheless make him a complete original, and Transistor Radio is already on my list as one of the best albums of 2005. [JM]







$16.99 LPx2



"Let's Jump In"

Many people contemplate whether or not they, or others, dream in color. Have you ever wondered if you've dreamt in sound? Dead Meadow would invite you to. Feathers opens languidly and gradually forges ahead across hazy, subconscious passages, alluring those engaged with their opaque sounds to drift with them through a waking-slumber. Feathers succumbs into aural freewheeling and glides through florid prisms, a misty descent into a surreal coma-scape. This is ghostly, volatile doom, an ethereal quiver between the meditative and the afflicted. Dead Meadow soar through their fourth and most dazzling effort in something that could be closely identified as stoner-gaze. Their dream palate hovers uniquely, though subtly conjuring the likes of Ride, Pink Floyd and Sabbath simultaneously with gorgeous somnolent guitar washes and wah wah pedals. Delicate hints of acid and blues creep through weaving in with the pretty melodies and thick psychedelic swirlings. An exceptional release. [MT]







$17.99 LP



"Alegro Piradissimo"

Hot on the heels of the brilliant Lula Cortes e Ze Ramahlo reissue comes Satwa, an acoustic LP that Cortes had recorded the previous year with his friend Lailson. This reissue was released by Time-Lag at the instigation of Matt Valentine and Erika Edler of Tower Recordings, who apparently cite it as a major touchstone for their recent work. It's easy to see why, as Satwa deliver plenty of heady late night raga atmospherics. Hailing from the Brazilian state of Pernambuco and steeped in Brazilian folk music, Cortes and Lailson spent countless evenings together improvising a new hybrid folk music. It was a combination of the melodies that they'd grown up with, but also informed by the Indian and Middle Eastern scales that were in vogue in the early-'70s. They took it upon themselves to self-release the songs that had germinated in their late-night jam sessions, and in doing so ended up publishing the very first independent album in Brazil. Brazil was at the height of its military dictatorship so they had to forgo any lyrics and vocals that might have found difficulty with the government censors; instead, only faintly angelic humming accompany Lailson's gorgeous 12-string ruminations and Cortes' Moroccan sitar accents. I'll admit that these kinds of loner hippy jam sessions don't always necessarily come off so great, but Lailson and Cortes really tapped into something beautiful when they got together. Satwa easily stacks up against my favorite acoustic guitar albums. [MK]







$15.99 LP



Dignity & Shame

"Weary Arms"
"Twilight Creeps"

I have to say that I am, and always have been, a fan of a great song -- especially one with its roots in Americana. In my opinion, Eric Bachmann creates some of the best around today. He is a superb storyteller with a gravelly voice that is one part Bruce Springsteen, one part Neil Diamond, and one part Bob Dylan. His lyrics tug at the heartstrings and anyone that has ever been in love, wronged, or depressed can fully relate to his message.

Dignity and Shame is Bachmann's fourth full-length as Crooked Fingers, and with the band's constantly revolving members he has created an album that is easily his most accessible and fully realized. The tracks take you on a tour through Americana. He channels Bruce Springsteen on one of my personal faves, "Twilight Creeps." He also has a few duets with band member Lara Meyerratken that sound so close to some of Lee Hazlewood and Ann-Margret's classics that they could easily be mistaken as a track from The Cowboy and the Lady. The opener, "Islero," is a Spanish influenced acoustic gem. I could go on about every track because there is not a dud in the bunch.

Dignity and Shame is a brilliant album and once again Bachmann has created one of my favorite records of the year. He continues to amaze me, for every album that this man has ever been involved in has blown me away. I root for him as the underdog, one who always deserves the critical acclaim, the hit record, and all that goes along with it. Sadly, it never comes, but definitely not for lack of trying or skill. Here's to you Eric Bachmann, for I can always count on you to be the soundtrack to my life whether it is walking around with my iPod, driving in the car or drinking a pint at the bar. Another year, and another truly amazing record from Crooked Fingers, I hope the world will listen. [JS]








Live! Thirty Days Ago

"Everything Is Everything"
"Funky Squaredance"

A few months ago I finally caught Phoenix live in concert. Already a favorite of mine, on stage the group were quite the showmen with calls to the audience for clap-alongs, band member introductions, drawn out guitar solos and dramatic stadium rock-styled endings. How this French band pulled off such grand posturing without making me cringe...Je ne sais pas. But that show ended up being one of my favorite concerts of 2004. Whether you caught them live on their recent tour or not, Phoenix fans should best pick up this limited live CD. Recorded last fall over the span of a handful of Scandinavian dates, this is a side of the band you won't hear by listening to their studio albums. The group is smoking, tearing through high-energy versions of favorites like "Run Run Run," "Everything Is Everything," and "If I Ever Feel Better." By the time the vocoder hits during "Funky Squaredance," you'll be reaching for your lighter. [GH]







$14.99 LP


Good Fortune
(Ninja Tune)

"Best Shit in the World"
"Brights Lights"

When most bands break up it's either a time for mourning, or a time to see what strengths the individual members brought to the plate as they venture down the solo road. Though a little bit of the latter, Airborn Audio could also be considered a partial reformation of the avant hip-hop group Anti-Pop Consortium. M. Sayyid and High Priest (now H. Prizm) revitalize all things weird and wonderful about their former crew. While with his sharp wit and spiked tongue flow, non-returning member Beans wasted no time in picking up a few pieces from the APC puzzle, Airborn Audio take us back to '02. Good Fortune picks up where Arrhythmia and Shopping Carts Crashing left off, with abstract word play, time stretched bang-on-a-can beats, and the warped frame of reference both MCs seemed thrive on.

One of my favorite tracks, "House of Mirrors" is the musical equivalent of standing in front of the curved funhouse mirror as ghostly synths jump out from behind the glass.

The album isn't a giant leap forward but it's a solid step back to life. Good Fortune is definitely a slow burner and definitely not a quick listen, or else you'll risk missing the point. It's also a darker outing than may be expected, but hey, these are dark times that we live in. Produced by the duo, along with "fifth Beatle" Earl Blaze. Fans of APC will not be disappointed. [DG]







Cosmic Game

"The Heart's a Lonely Hunter"
"The Time We Lost Our Way"

Thievery Corporation were due for a slight change. So they've come out with their very own Mezzanine (Massive Attack) and/or Science Fiction (U.N.K.L.E.), i.e. they've used their bit of star power to enroll a few 'names' to drop lyrics on their album. Where else can Wayne Coyne (Flaming Lips) rub shoulders with David Byrne and Perry Farrell? Also lending their voices and underground cred: Sleepy Wonder, Gunjan, Notch, Vernie Varela, Patrick De Santos, Sista Pat and Loulou.

Besides being more song oriented, like the title suggests, Cosmic Game has a spacey, dubby lounge pop feel throughout -- a tad more 'pot brownie' than 'dirty martini' -- while at the same time, touching on Thievery's classic trip hop feel, occasional dub song, and Asian underground vibe. Perry Farrell's contribution on "Revolution Solution" has that British dubtronica feel of Leftfield's "Check One." "Shiva," featuring Gunjan, is one of those opium den soothers, accented with fluttering sitars and sultry, dubbed out Indian diva vocals. "Amerimacka," featuring Notch, is a dub-hop number that sounds like a positive, less brooding Massive Attack while "Pela Janela" is a dreamy Afro-dub track with bits of picked guitar thrown in.

It's also worthwhile to point out, as Duane here at the shop put it, that the album seems to have all of its world, dub, trip hop, etc. influences more tightly woven into the songs. All the trademark elements seem to be used collectively within each track in varying degrees to make the song flow. Sometimes production teams with 'institution-like' status try too hard to do something new. Cosmic Game is a positive step for Thievery Corporation, one that their fans are sure to be in tune with. [SM]







Purified By the Fire

"Purified By the Fire"

Purified By the Fire is a stupendous recording of a 1981 live performance by Henry Flynt and Catherine Christer Hennix, both of whom were disciples of the legendary Indian vocalist Pandit Pran Nath (as were La Monte Young, Terry Riley, Rhys Chatham, Charlemagne Palestine, and several other prominent American minimalists). Flynt and Hennix's electric violin and tambura duets have previously been heard on Locust Music's wonderful reissue of C Tune. For 42 hypnotic minutes, Hennix lays a gorgeous bed of deep raga drone while Flynt rapturously improvises searing and lyrical hillbilly violin passages. I would imagine that Flynt was attempting to use his violin in the same way that his mentor used his voice. While he doesn't quite achieve the same effect, the results of his effort are nothing less than original. Flynt has described his own work as a "personal extension of the ethnic music of [his] region of the United States." Performances like this one, which overtly combine elements of both his Western and Eastern influences and training, are among his most interesting. Sonic heaven. [RH]







All Night Fox
(Drag City)

"Instilled With Mem'ry"
"Now, We're Gonna Sing"

"Neil's got a girlfriend! Neil's got a girlfriend!!" No, seriously. Besides having a new album full of hypnotic, shit-hot Hagerty licks and early Trux-style Neil on all instruments production (thanks), All-Night Fox is graced with the appearance of an unnamed new ladyfriend. (Let's just call her "Nancy." - Dan) She has a sandpaper-in-honey toned voice, at times sounding like a young Loretta Lynn or Dolly Parton, echoed with an ESG backing Charles Manson thing going on. What you might call a 'good voice.' Maybe she smokes, but not like a chimney.

It seems like Neil made some tactical decisions to accommodate this new collaborator. Her voice is pushed slightly back, male and female vocals take turns on the verses while sick looped blues licks groove on and on. The 'boogie' feel is still there, but the treble is slightly kicked up to mesh with the new vocal range better (while also conjuring up memories of classic damaged Trux songs -- the all-Neil instrumentation helps too.) Some might complain that there isn't as much street poetry in the forefront to grab you, but I like to look at this one as an album that embodies the feel of the earliest stuff combined with Neil's ever-seasoned guitar playing. Loose and tight in all the right places. Old faithful. [SM]









Lau Nau is Laura Naukkarinen, an incredibly gifted young woman from Finalnd, and Kuutarha is her debut solo record. She is a member of some pretty fantastic groups such as Päivänsäde, the Anaksimandros, and Kiila. Her style is an intriguing mélange of folk, free and ethnic musics. I imagine that most or all of the album was recorded outdoors in her garden...it's doused in a pleasant fragrance of cassette hiss and a distinctively pastoral Finnish air. At times, I am reminded of an olden, Secret Museum of Mankind feel. To lend a helping hand on a few songs are her friends Pekko Kappi (Päivänsäde), Tomas Regan (Avarus), and partner Antti Tolvi (Rauhan Orkesteri, Lauhkeat Lampaat, Päivänsäde). Kuutarha is thoroughly engaging, and there's quite a bundle of smile-inducing (not in a comedic way, rather a "wow, this is really amazing" kind of way) moments within…

The power of the parched, slowly rising ur-drone in "Pläkkikanteletar." The dictaphone-recorded loose jam session that turns into an American Primitive comedown in "Johdattaja-Joleen." Lau's expressive charm at the end of "Tuulka," stark against the outside night amongst the frogs calling in the distance. The way her multi-tracked vocal blurs together atop a passionately plucked riff in "Kuula." The beautiful rendition of a Nepalese traditional song. The percussion/bird duet in "Sammiolimnut." The morning raga in the scene-setting "Jos minulla olisi." The longing of "Hunnun." The utter joy of "Puuportti rautaportilta." The musicianship is that of sentience, and Lau's voice is what takes it a step further. One part kitten, another part fairy, Lau soulfully coos and purrs her lullabys, nestled inside the ears.

Lau and friends use an impressive collection of noise making things: acoustic bass, bass recorder, acoustic guitar, chimes, banjo, flutes, tenor recorder, violin, bamboo flute, mandolin, baby's rattle, bike bells, cowbells, tambura, electric guitar, organ, willow whistle, tablas, percussion, cymbals, comb, kantele and jouhikko (both traditional Finnish instruments), and my personal favorites...witch-laugh megaphone, mortar, beer cans and colorful juice glasses! Kuutarha is intimate, heartfelt, and so, so lovely. [DD]







The Lighthouse
(Chicks on Speed)

"In Awe of a Painting"

In short: B. Fleischmann has a sex change and hires an angel to write and sing on his album, and then everyone goes and buys the record. The end. By Scott Mou.

Comebacks are tricky. This is not a comeback. Sure, Ana da Silva sang in the Raincoats and made legendary records that rank among the best of the whole Slits, Au Pairs, Kleenex, Family Fodder, ad infinitum, canon. So knowing that, we would be lucky to get an album that doesn't make us think, "Oh well, she made great records in the '80s, besides, how can we expect her to know what's cool in 2005?"

What actually happens is, we get a record that makes us perk up our ears and listen with all our might. This one has all the unpretentious, heartfelt simplicity of any prime Rough Trade/53rd and 3rd etc. indie pop single wrapped up in an entirely different animal. (Dreamy, simple, modern synth pop.) Look up again at the "In short" description. And there's more.

Apparently da Silva wanted to "try something new" and bought a simple electronic device (unspecified to keep the gearhounds at bay), produced her own tracks, and recorded them on a digital 8-track recorder. The results are exactly ideal, exemplifying the D.I.Y. spirit true to form: an honest album, inspired by the need to "try something new" that actually results in something individually and effortlessly "new." Simple, poetic lyrics (a la Donna Regina) on quasi-wonky yet charmingly simple/ effective backing tracks (a la Fumble, Kandis, B. Fleischmann) that utilize all the synthstrumental sounds of her "electronic device" that place her somewhere in the "folktronica" category without being anchored by it. An ideal record full of pleasant surprises that after all, aren't surprises at all. Like (but not sounding like) Chris Carter's recent remix of TG's "Hot Heels/United," The Lighthouse is an album that is classic and new at the same time. Totally in tune with the past and the present in the simplest way.

Standout songs: "Friend," "The Lighthouse," "In Awe of a Painting," "Disco Ball," "Climbing Walls"…the whole damn thing, basically.

For fans of the following wide arc of artists: Vaselines and all their friends, Morr Music, Solex' first album, Magnetic Fields, Donna Regina, Lali Puna, Beat Happening. Also, Sunny Days (not Real Estate) and Quiet Times. Recommended. [SM]







End of Love

"Tiny European Cars"
"Jews for Jesus Blues"

Five records in, alt-country rockers Clem Snide aren't ready to throw us any unexpected surprises -- a la Bright Eyes' recent dabbles in electro-pop, or adventurous Jim O'Rourke production. But I don't think loyal fans will mind one bit. Songwriter Eef Barzelay stays on point twisting humorous metaphors into melancholy; this keeps the often reflective, mostly mid-tempo tracks from getting too moody. There's a whole tune dedicated to the life of Lucille Ball ("Made for TV Movie"); he waxes poetically about Isaac Newton's virginity during the chorus of "Tiny European Cars," and he even has a song called "The Sound of German Hip Hop." Not your typical Americana subject matter. At times Barzelay's lyrical play reminds me of Luna-era Dean Wareham, only here, there's a little twang. Start the record off with a rocking title track, bookend the album with a rollicking barroom vibe ("Weird"), invite some capable hands like engineer Mark Nevers and an all-star backing lineup which includes members of Lambchop, the Lounge Lizards and Crooked Fingers keyboardist Lara Meyerratken...End of Love shows an excellent songwriter really hitting his stride. [GH]




Volume 1


Volume 2


Mind Fusion Volumes 1 & 2
(Mind Fusion)

"Hydrant Game"

Madlib offers two crafty mix CDs to wet our whistle while we await the next Quasimoto and Madvillain albums. Mind Fusion Vol. 1 is all hip-hop featuring exclusive remixes of everyone he's produced as well as those he should: Common, D'Angelo, Quasimoto, Galt McDermont, Medaphor, Prince Po, Oh No, and Madvillain among others (each track is indexed). Mind Fusion Vol. 2 is for the jazz head in all of us. Blending a wealth of spiritual soul, free and hard jazz, lots of mysteriously wonderful tunes give a glimpse to what's hiding deep in his record crates. (The mix is in three parts, each about 15-minutes long). Don't sleep on these hidden gems; I have a feeling they won't be around forever. Fans of Madlib and all things deep, jazzy, and funky should pick 'em up. [DG]









Woman King EP
(Sub Pop)

"Evening on the Ground (Lilith's Song)"

One guess would be that Sam Beam might have pulled his 4-track back out of the closet to record this EP. But like his last album, Our Endless Numbered Days, these six songs boast non-obtrusive yet nonetheless bigger production and fleshed out arrangements with instruments like dulcimer, banjo, cello and piano accompanying his folk guitar. Beam's voice is still intimate and wispy, occasionally using Biblical characters and imagery to shape lovelorn stories of the women who've wronged him. It's not all quiet though. Amidst the circular repetition of his acoustic six-string in "Evening on the Ground," distorted chords from an electric guitar join the sustained strained notes of a cello and amplify the underlying tension twofold. [GH]







5. Flicker Tunes


This is the first proper release from C-Schulz in over five years! An elder statesman of the experimental electronic community in Cologne, C-Schulz has been quietly creating carefully orchestrated drone pieces out of layers of electronics, field recordings, and various objects and instruments for well over two decades. His self-titled duo CD from 2000 with frequent collaborator Hajsch (C-Schulz & Hajsch) is considered by many, including myself, to be a classic. His tremendous influence on the experimental scene in Cologne is quite evident in his choice of collaborators over the years -- Marcus Schmickler (Pol), Georg Odijk (Kontakta), Frank Dommert (Kontakta), Andi Toma, Jan St. Werner, Harold 'Sack' Zielgler etc.

While 5. Flicker Tunes is no great departure from C-Schulz's previous efforts, his modest and singularly focused approach serves him well on the eight pieces contained on the album. Fluttering electronics gradually envelope subtle instrumental passages and atmospheric field recordings to create an overall texture that's both engrossing and beautiful. Averaging around six-minutes, the pieces on 5. Flicker Tunes are remarkably economical in means and demonstrate a sense of precision and attention to detail not often found in more recent drone based compositions. An extremely concise effort that rewards repeated listening. Let's hope we don't have to wait another five years for the next installment. [KH]







This Cloud Is Learning

"Something in the Way"

Chronologically, this reissue would be Nicolai Dunger's third release of five. Most American fans have never heard his first couple of records as they have not been released in the U.S., and Dunger is said to disavow them. This Cloud Is Learning was recorded in 1999, with Dunger's new pals Soundtrack Of Our Lives as the backing band, and it could be seen as his coming out, as he found his voice and focus as an artist. Dunger creates lovely and meticulous folk-pop with fingerpicked acoustic guitars and subtle embellishments cradling his expressive, elastic voice. The Van Morrison fixation is already evident on a few tracks, as is a love of Marc Bolan, but This Cloud Is Learning really features the sound of Dunger finding his own artistic personality. And with fine instrumentation and lovely songwriting, it is worth a listen from any fan. [JM]







$16.99 LP


Government Commissions


Formed at the height of the '90s post-rock era, Mogwai quickly became an institution within that so-called movement. With beautiful cascading passages that slowly crescendoed into hypnotically dark, metallic repetitions and deafening washes of sound, the Scottish band could have been the bastard sons of My Bloody Valentine and Slint. In the 10 years since their inception, Mogwai have outlasted the post-rock brand name and are still crafting textured, dynamically charged music. Government Commissions is a retrospective of sorts; but rather than compiling existing album versions of fan favorites for a best-of CD, this collection is culled exclusively from Mogwai performances on BBC Broadcasts between 1996 and 2003. (The album starts off with legendary British broadcaster John Peel announcing the band.) The selection features two songs from each of their albums, the exception being Rock Action which is only represented by "Secret Pint," and a few songs from EPs. Even though the recordings were made over a several year period, the tracks flow together pretty seamlessly and apex in the middle with the bellowing, 18-and-a-half minute "Like Herod." [GH]







$13.99 LP





"Neighborhood #3 (Power Out)"

There's no doubt that Arcade Fire's 2004 debut full-length was one of the most raved about albums amongst music critics, fans of homemade melancholy and readers of taste-making websites. Centered on the husband and wife singer/songwriter team of Win Butler and Régine Chassagne, the group's charming and often intense record of sadness and hope is couched in the scratchy orchestrated pop of bands like Neutral Milk Hotel, Bright Eyes, Sebadoh, or mid-period Flaming Lips. They favor dense, chugging mid-tempo grooves, embellishing the standard rock band instrumentation with pianos, organs, strings, bells, accordion, and seemingly whatever else they can cram onto the tape, and they manage to build powerful yet fragile anthems out of simple chords and poetry. Finally, available on vinyl. [JM]









Triple R Selection 3

"Only Love"

The latest addition to the Selection series on Trapez has arrived. This third Triple R mix starts smooth and dives deep immediately. Starring Dominik Eulberg, Hansen & DJ Daniel, Matthias Rahn, Marcos Cabral, an unreleased Sarah Goldfarb track with vocals by Riley Reinhold, and a plethora of the LTD 12-inches. (Full review next week.)









(AGF Productions)

"Explode Baby"

This first proper full-length collaboration displays an interesting evolution for the duo. Vladislav Delay's production incorporates more deep house elements from his Luomo project while Laub's Antye Greie embellishes her spoken narrations with warm melodies. Minimal and impressionistic, Explode reveals itself with repeated listens.









Fast Cars, Danger, Fire and Knives
(Def Jux)

"Number Nine"

Hip-hop heavyweight Aesop Rock drops a new EP full of his spitfire rhymes and buzzing, futuristic funk. This limited version comes with an 80-page booklet featuring lyrics spanning his whole career, photos and artwork.









The Syliphone Years


An essential two-disc compilation by one of Africa's leading dance bands of the '60s and '70s, The Syliphone Years documents the incredibly versatile and innovative Bembeya Jazz National. Bembeya Jazz were a state sponsored orchestra whose existence was a direct result of Guinea's emancipation from French colonial rule of nearly half a century. After winning independence, Guinea's president instituted a broad reaching cultural program that intended to do away with any lingering Gallic influence on the arts. Emphasis was instead placed on local heritage, and musicologists were hired to document the country's contributions to music. Thanks to government largess, countless bands were funded and allowed to contribute to a kind of revolutionary artistic emancipation. The greatest and most influential of these orchestras ended up being Bembeya Jazz National, formed in 1961, and whose success was in no small part due to the extraordinary guitar work of Sekou Diabate, a man whose technique surely ranks as some of the finest ever recorded.

During their heyday Bembeya Jazz never rested on their laurels, indeed the fairly conservative sounding "jazz" in their title is a little misleading. In truth they were highly accomplished at synthesizing numerous influences as they came on to the musical landscape. The first disc in this collection exhibits a strong Cuban influence, and is not that dissimilar to the popular Congolese rumba that was so prevalent in Africa at the time. As the decade progressed so did their arrangements. American funk via Fela Kuti's Afrobeat ended up in the mix, albeit to my ears in a much more radical reworking. While the songs still frequently gallop, by the second disc a sense of melancholy becomes present. The haunting vocals of Demba Camara serve as a spectral counterpoint to Bembeya's complex rhythms and Diabate's hypnotically fluid guitar work. One striking aspect of this collection is that it seems their musicality knew no bounds; included are such breathtaking passages of skill and emotion that they really need to be heard to be believed. [MK]




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[DD] Daniel DeRogatis
[DG] Daniel Givens
[GH] Gerald Hammill
[RH] Rob Hatch-Miller
[KH] Koen Holtkamp
[MK] Michael Klausman
[JM] Josh Madell
[SM] Scott Mou
[JS] Jeremy Sponder
[MT] Mahssa Taghinia

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