Music Reviews

Folk Music of The Sahel Vol 1: Niger [coll] – [Sublime Frequencies]

Thurston Hunger   2/16/2015   12-inch, International

What a devoted collection in all forms, written, visually (the
amazing photographs make a poor country look resplendent)
and of course the sound. Sometimes songs for a God are the
most beautiful aspects of mankind, and while not all the cuts
are celebrations of Islam, they are glorious. The liner notes are
a must read, as the threats on musicians from various sides
I think underscore Hisham Mayet’s appreciation for and curation
of what hopefully are not vanishing arts and artists. We’ve been
lucky to have Tuareg musicians not just find their way into our
library, but actually live into our studio. Sounds from them and
the Fulani, men singing deep in their throats, women soaring in
choirs of chants and one amazing piece of kids singing (do
not miss “Young Girl Night Village Dance”). Lots of strings,
dry as banjos or splashing with electric psych on the last
side with guitars, power drone horns, fleeting flutes. Rapturous
and all recorded in the past 10 years.
-Thurston Hunger

Native North America Vol. 1 [coll] – [Light in the Attic]

Cousin Mary   2/4/2015   12-inch, International

Absolutely stunning collection of popular music as played by Native American/First Nation people from Canada and the northern United States. Most would be considered Country/Folk with occasional rock and British invasion influence, but that implies that it is derivative – which it is not. Influences such as government sanctioned boarding schools that sought to destroy tribal language and customs, extreme climates and isolation, and native culture give this an authenticity that is very affecting. Some tracks are in native languages. Liner notes are very readable and informative.

Fumaca Preta – “Fumaca Preta” – [Soundway Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/30/2015   12-inch, International

Why can’t we find more “psychedelic soul” like this. Holy
(black) Smoke! Alex Figueira, a gent of Portuguese and
Venezuelean descent, builds a little barracao behind his
house in Amsterdam, and somehow the Amazon river flows
through it! Psycho-tropicalic-super-freak-tastic sounds,
like a bunch of happy monsters eating forbidden flowers
digging up tried and driven beats, fuzzier than an
Electric Turk’s beard, more powerful than a Soul Train in
Space, and less calories than most coctails. Figueira
pretty much screams as if he’s under attack by Vampyros
Lesbos on the dance floor. Every band member wearing
cow-bell-bottom pants I assume. But this is ear-spanking
new stuff, check out the break with the diseased robot
thank-a-thon in the eponymous lead off track on side B.
“Pupilas Dilatadas” drops a rave tab before rock-star
orgasm-face solo. At times lyrics just repeat in various
shades of madness. Kika Carvalho is brought in as mind
and heart doctor with go-go voices from attending nurses,
Elaine, Paula and Cissa who try to help. But the patient
is too far gone, too far happy. Check out the haunted
house organ on “Voce Enlouqueceu” and “Perdidos” the
latter even finds flute and a chamber quarter before
going surfing in that secret tie-dyed river. Such
a great album capturing abandon and musical fun!
More please…
-Thurston Hunger

E Voce Di U Cumune – “Corsica: Chants Polyphoniques” – [Harmonia Mundi France]

humana   1/21/2015   CD, International

“Chants” is French for songs, but it is also the mode of vocalization of these pieces that make up a mass chanted by “The Voice of the Community”–and the chants are in Italian. The variation in tonality and melodiousness of the Corsican performers (most of whom are under 30) attests to the rich tradition that harks back to the Middle Ages, yet exhibits nuances that have been built into the music in the intervening years. Read the excellent liner notes and let the voices (completely a capela) take you back and forth through time.

Diabate, Zani and Super Djata Band – “Super Djata De Bamako” – [Kindred Spirits]

humana   11/30/2014   12-inch, International

Zani Diabate formed the Super Djata Band, one of Mali’s premiere private orchestras. Called “Mali’s electric warriors,” they offer here five songs rich with historical folklore that is described in the liner notes. Zani’s mad guitar skills are nicely offset by vocals and other local instruments such as kamalen ngoni and djembe. The liveliness of the music takes you to the heart of the Bamako region of Mali and immerses you in the cultural feel of the area. Each musician is part of a rich musical lineage that continues even after his passage to another plane. As you listen, you feel like you’re rollicking on the back of a camel or walking across flatlands in a hypnotic trance. Bon voyage!

Thirakwa, Ustad Ahmed Jan and Ustad Amir Hussain Khan – “Rhythms of India (Tabla Recital)” – [EMI (India)]

selector   11/26/2014   12-inch, International

This is your brain, on Tablas. Two veteran Indian percussionists. Rapid-fire tabla drumming. A must for those with an interest in rhythms and drumming. And don’t miss one of the better features, the cool bass sounds of the (usually) left-hand tabla (or dagga?).

I preferred Thirakwa’s A-Side tracks 1 & 2, Teen Tala & Ek Tala over Khan. Oddly, a number of reviews I read indicate that Thairakwa was showing his age with uneven speed and power. Forget that! It’s all amazing drumming!


Music On The Desert Road: a Sound Travelogue [coll] – [Angel Records]

abacus   11/19/2014   12-inch, International

like a collection of old photographs, lost moments of forgotten traditions immortalized here by Bengali ethnomusicologist Deben Bhattacharya, recordings captured during his overland voyage to India from 1955-1956. at the start of each side we set out by road or rail traversing the great desert from Anatolia descending into the Levant and across the Fertile Crescent into Persia and finally India. religious rituals, domestic rituals, nomadic rituals; ancient modes and harmonies spread across a vast geographic space along the Silk Road and through Bedouin drifting and Vedic-Aryan migration. a timeless document of historical significance documenting musical practices that carry meaning today.

Seymali, Noura Mint – “Tzenni” – [Glitter Beat]

Thurston Hunger   11/14/2014   12-inch, International

Packaging is almost as good as the tunes on this,
including song-by-song descriptions for this mighty
Mauritanian musician. In addition to having pipes
of pure glory, Noura also plays the ardine, a 7 or 9-string
harp-like instrument (sounds akin to the kora on here,
check that artwork for how beautiful it and she are!).
As the liner notes indicate this is a family affair,
songs of her father and her grandmother are summoned
while her husband, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, just slays
on the guitar. He’s got the kind of twirling effects
that add equal parts fuzz and moisture so it really sticks
to your ears. Quick spirals of
sounds that play so well off the ardine (which comes in
acoustic and electric). Noura almost scat sings on El
Barm, and the title track lives up to its dervish
underpinnings. All of the songs here hit the ancient
power and also a modern psych/blues revival (the
ardine a pentatonic instrument). Her voice rises
above and is often joined by backup singers (she
herself was a back-up singer to her step-mom at
the age of 13, so she knows the importance of
having harmony on stage). The opening and closing
tracks elevate to mystical musical rapture. Dig
the drum beat dropping on the latter. The album
while well-produced, retains a ragged swagger
as if someone just handed you a cell-phone memory
stick from a party they attended the night before.
Aces on this one… That’s Mauritainment!

-Thurston Hunger

L’Orchestre Sidi Yassa De Kayes – “L’Orchestre Sidi Yassa De Kayes” – [Kindred Spirits]

humana   9/9/2014   12-inch, International

This is a throwback to a time when Mali’s regional orchestras were untainted by “political disenchantment and economic disillusion” (see the sleeve insert). The music is jaunty, cheerful, and full of variety. The songs cover such topics as how women must be patient with their husbands and accept if marriage is to succeed, and how much pressure virgin brides have to please their husbands on the wedding night. Part of the Mali Kunkan series of official recordings, this is from circa 1977 and well worth listening to.

Modern Mayan: The Indian Music of Chiapas, Mexico [coll] – [Moi J’Connais Records]

mickeyslim   9/3/2014   12-inch, International

Traditional music from Chiapas, the southernmost state of Mexico. Chiapas is home to the largest indigenous population in the country, with twelve different recognized ethnicities. Originally a Smithsonian Folkways release, Mississippi Records picked this up alongside Moi J’Connais.

Lots of different kinds of music here. There are homemade string instruments (guitars, violins), homemade drums, homemade flutes, harps, rattles, trumpets, and interesting vocals, sometimes in harmony. There is also four different languages being spoken on this album: Tzoztil, Tzeltal, Chol, and Tojolabal, and all share their roots with both Aztec and Spanish. The music played in these areas are purely ceremonial, never played for it’s own sake.

Deep, thick drums; shaky, high pitched voices; plucked string twangs; and floating flautists all make this a knock out add for KFJC. All tracks were recorded during actual fiestas in the community. Sick as fuck liner notes!

Akbayram, Edip – “Edip Akbayram” – [Pharaway Sounds]

Naysayer   9/3/2014   CD, International

Hurray for the Anatolian Psych explosion that happened in Turkey decades ago. From it we, oh humble listeners, are being showered with the reissued sounds of the many that held court back around the “70’s (that’s 1970″s kids). Pharaway Sounds issue of “Edip Akbayram” by psych singer of the same name is a wonderful addition to the ever growing collection. As a child, Akbayram was not able to walk due to polio. This may have held back many, but not him. As a teen and then adult, Akbayram began singing in bands which used the psychedelic sounds that were ever so popular in Turkey at the time. It took him through Turkey where he was a hit on Istanbul TV. This collection of early singles from 1972 to 1974 offer an array of tunes, some sounding very traditional, some more pop oriented, but the best being the hard psych-out blend with Turkish traditional sounds guided by thumping bass and amplified electric stringed everything. Guitars and bass swirl around in an ever expanding sound while drums and tambourines help keep the rhythm steady. Akbayrim’s vocals are big and full, definitely taking a lead when he kicks in, singing the lyrics based on the writings of Sufi mystics. With titles translated by Bing Translator as “Wasted”, “Love Me For Me”, and “Burn Scan Scan”, one can only hope what the whole song is about. Listen, learn, drop out.

Sursagar – “Best of Jagmohan, The” – [EMI (India)]

abacus   8/31/2014   12-inch, International

a young Bengali boy refuses to follow in the footsteps of his wealthy, conservative parents; with dreams of a professional singing career he seeks out a guru and under Dilip Babu he flourishes, winning national contests and soon becoming a household name. traditional Indian modes via western strings and active tabla rhythms support his heartfelt songs. vintage recordings hearken back to a country calling for independence, thriving in modern culture but still grasping its cultural roots.

Young, Oscar Band – “Damp Circuits: The Golden Era of Synthesizers In E Asia Vol1” – [Sham Palace]

Thurston Hunger   8/20/2014   7-inch, International

“Damp Circuits: The Golden Era Of Synthesizers In East Asia Vol. 1”
Hong Kong a Go Go? 70’s sounds for today thanks to Porest’s
Sham Palace label. Speaking of “shams,” at first blush listen
I really wondered if it was the Neung Phak pack putting together
some old Chinese pop songbooks and flea-market instruments for
a “dramatic reinterpretation” but further hunting around seems
to indicate Oscar Young was a record producer and band leader
working that crazy cross-breeding zone of Britain and China back
then. I’m always suspicious (and happy) when Porest aka Mark
Gerghis is involved, and the fact that this 4-song ep was
compiled by one B. (I assume “Bobby”) Ganush…I could not
tell if my leg was being pulled while my foot was tapping to
these exotic/disco/squishy synth-instros. Any ways, I hope
there was (and maybe still is living) an Oscar Young who
collected studio musicians for female singers and Cha Cha
enthusiasts, and might have had a band called “The Apollo”
Either way, the music is great. The first track has the
most aromatic Chinese air, one can almost taste the erhu.
Its drums would make Martin Denny have a smile as wide as
an island. Next up, a similar melody after what sounded
more like a pachinko machine emptying than a raincloud
doing so, but #2 is all about the bass player growing some
fuzzy sideburns and dropping some funky notes. Flip it over
and I’m not sure if there are a million people rejoicing
but it’s kind of funny how a crowd of men’s voices is
fade in and out. Again the drums are prominent, finaly
the album ends with a Mod Squad moment, wacka-wacka guitar
traveling far and well. The synth is so squelchy on that
number, and part of the genius of this gem is the naming of
the collection. “Damp Circuits” Killer! And Vol 1, well that’s
promising as well…not hearing this would have been a shame!
-Thurston Hunger
PS A friend at work was also suspicious on the ideogram for
“Young’s” last name. I know, I know…I ruin everything.

Johnson, Dexter & Le Super Star De Dakar – “Live a L’Etoile” – [Teranga Beat]

Thurston Hunger   8/20/2014   CD, International

Cool stuff via the excellent Teranga Beat label (and via our
vital Forced Exposure connection….more please Monsieur Benoit!)
Nigerian tenor saxmen comes to Senegal in the late 50’s joins the
Star Band de Dakar, but breaks away to form the Super Star version
(a little “how’s my stardust taste perhaps?). The music here is
removed from any such vitrolic or vengeful nascence, instead it’s
super smooth Afro-Cuban percolated sweetness. Singing in Spanish,
swinging in the shade of a cocktail umbrella, and doing so before
the roots of Orchestra Baobab took over. These “live” tracks (which
don’t come with dubbed in crowd captures) are pretty pristine.
A nice rough rawness on some tracks like “Para Que Bueno” with
excellent nasally back-up vox. Similarly the singing on “Mayeya”
reminded me of a dream with the Sun City Girls. Most songs like
“Para Que Bueno and the closer “Soy El Rey” are clearly dance/boogaloo
numbers, as their lyrics attest. Even on the slower cuts, percussion
blankets the music, giving “Mujer de Oriente” a dreamy sheen. For
some reason, lots of times I found myself digging the choruses over
the verses, like on “Caminho de Sao Tome” where it quivers with
a special power and a special pain. But most of the work here
lies well within the upbeat Afro-Cubano canon.

-Thurston Hunger

Kaltsoum, Oum – “Vol. II (1926-1927-1928)” – [Club Du Disque Arabe]

humana   7/26/2014   CD, International

One of the best ways to appreciate a culture is to know its music, and vice versa. This second installment in documenting the musical life of “the Grand Lady of Egyptian singing” contains examples of the range of the amazing voice set against simple musical accompaniment of strings (sitar- and violin-like). Read the liner notes to learn how a little five-year-old from humble beginnings took a talent and ran with it.

Selda – “Turkulerimiz 6” – [Pharaway Sounds]

humana   6/16/2014   12-inch, International

It is no surprise that we have Selda well represented in our KFJC library. Not only is she a great musician (she took up mandolin at 5), but her political statements through music have made her music controversial in her native Turkey, where she has spent much time in jail for expressing her views. Most of the songs on this disc are very lively and jaunty, belying the serious nature of the lyrics. Selda had to try twice to be accepted into the music world, and in between she studied Turkish folk poetry, which certainly influenced this album. Be sure to read the liner notes for a great description of the background of Selda’s music.

Woima Collective – “Frou Frou Rokko” – [Kindred Spirits]

Thurston Hunger   6/6/2014   12-inch, International

Hide and go Ethiopique seek! Treasures abound here and they
are not confined to that sweet sour scale (Woima’s first
album was in fact named after one cale, the “Tezeta”).
This is their follow-up, plenty of great guitar weaving
in and out of syncopated drumming and a horn section that
packs grace and power (they are from the Poets of Rhythm).
Apparently “Woima” is a Guinean word for the “rhythm of
magic” but this tentet plus friends has Northern African
moves down to a science. Precision funk in parts, the
two guitarists Kalle Zeier and JJ Whitefield are adept
in grit, funk, and some spot on wacka-wacka wah wah.
Multiple drummers have than inexhaustible afro beat
approach that would have Tony Allen fans dancing in the
aisles. And yes a cowbell specialist is called in to help
with “Malaria.” The jazz skirmishes (like a killer freakout
finish to close “Lassa” which begins with the most Mulatu-esque
maneuvers) are possibly my favorite flavor, so kudos to
driving force and sax shaman Johannes Schleiermacher. Still
this is a release that will fit more with the Soul Patrol
than KFJC’s Jazz Kollektiev. No vocals, just an oasis
of sound. Super hypno-synth Thomas Myland in parts. Got to
imagine their shows are even more entrancing.
-Thurston Hunger

Music of The Ottoman-american Diaspora Vol. III [coll] – [Mississippi Records]

Max Level   5/26/2014   12-inch, International

Vocal and instrumental recordings from 1905-1928. (For some reason the album cover says 1916-1930, but I’m going with the liner notes because they date the individual tracks.)
The Ottoman Empire, in existence for six centuries, enveloped a large portion of Mediterranean and Balkan Europe, and drew cultural influences from many different regions (Turkish, Egyptian, Greek, Armenian, Macedonian, etc.)
The performers here reflect a variety of nationalities. Some of these musicians were respected classical players and others were popular performers of the day. A couple of tracks feature unknown performers. The only artist I was familiar with is the great Turkish violinist/cellist Cemil Bey, whom the liner notes liken to Charlie Parker in terms of having enormous musical ability while notoriously suffering from drug addiction and poor health.
Audio quality is decent, bearing in mind that some of the recordings are more than 100 years old. The tracks are in the 3 to 4 minute range and were recorded mostly in each artist’s home country; a few of them were recorded in America.
Fascinating stuff. Fezcore. Dudes with excellent mustaches. I am partial to track B5, an instrumental that the liner notes claim was a typical accompaniment to Turkish wrestlers covered in olive oil and wearing leather trunks.

Bombino – “Agamgam 2004” – [Glitter Beat]

humana   5/14/2014   12-inch, International

This is stirring music that gets inside your blood and moves you whether you want it or not, physically and mentally. Read the fascinating sleeve notes to learn about Bombino, who when he was working as a cook’s assistant in the Tenere desert gave a concert around a campfire one night, playing his acoustic guitar and singing his words. Firmly rooted to tradition, but adding modern chords to his music, he continues a conversation that has been going on for years. He works to unite his people in a peaceful way, to alert them to the truth, and rally them to react with knowledge and intelligence. Amidst it all, you hear camels, the crackling of the fire, and whooshes of wind. You feel like you are rollicking along gently as you ride the camel in some songs (B2, B3). This is great stuff. Play it.

Theppabutr Productions [coll] – [Light in the Attic]

MSTiZA   4/9/2014   12-inch, International

This is a Record Store Day 2013 collaboration between the Seattle based label Light In The Attic Records & the Thai label ZudRangMa. Compiled on this release is a collection of recordings produced by Theppabutr Satirodchompu. The Molam sounds is rooted in Loas, was traditionally folk music, and includes several genres (poetical, storytelling, country poetry, theatrical troupe, shadow puppet, and healing). Theppabutr Productions was born from a career as a musician, heavily influenced by the popular US sounds, then radio & television. He began to Disc Jockey; spinning US hits that influenced his sound. He moved on to TV where his band would play as the featured act. Theppabutr brought the eastern Thai or Isan to radio and TV. His path led to recording and producing musicians and artists, creating a network of Molam musicians. Through adversity, he became the pioneer in modernizing the Molam sound. Traditional instruments get the experimental treatment, the thai folk sound gets funked up.

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