Music Reviews

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.

Koudede – “Guitars From Agadez Vol 7” – [Sublime Frequencies]

Lady Labyrinth   3/19/2014   12-inch, International

“Switched On” Down Home African Blues
Koudede plays fuzzy electric blues guitar, accompanied by bass, drum kit, and rhythm guitar, Koudede sings the lead lines with backup vocals helping out occasionally in a call and response. Vocals have this great shout sing holler quality to them. Just rough enough production to make you feel like you’re in the room with them.

Hailing from the traditionally nomadic Tuareg peoples of Mali and Niger, Koudede grew up near a Uranium mine and was rumored to have “built his first guitar from a tin can”. His music is inspired from his life in the camps and caravans of the Tuareg and their political struggles and disfranchisement.
The sound is very American Early Blues and Folk roots style coupled with complex, polyrhythmic African trance elements and a modal style of song arrangement.

Play at 45 rpm – LadyLabyrinth

Kuti, Fela and Afrika 70 – “Opposite People/Sorrow, Tears and Blood” – [Knitting Factory Records]

Naysayer   3/9/2014   CD, International

There’s a challenge, sometimes, when listening to a musical artist who has put out an enormous amount of recordings. The challenge is, especially to the uninitiated listener, to not think it all sounds alike. Such is the case with the recordings of Fela Kuti. A very definite pattern emerges when listening to his music: a short intro of some guitar or organ or maybe the single beat setting maraca/shaker starting off its 4/4 command. Guitars come in, organ, the horn section takes over, then maybe halfway in to the song, if it has not already happened, Fela’s dominant vocals pour in. Next his chorus will do a call and response with the horns. There may be a synth/organ solo with rhythm section keeping the beat. About half way through, or sooner to those that know, the figuring out of the pattern falls by the way side and the beat takes the listener over. It’s time to dance and listen. This is AfroBeat. That is a Fela album, with lyrics filled with political innuendo or straight out attack.
But it is not repetitive in a bad way. This is music and ideas that build on each other, that use the success of past recording to add to and extend to the current project.

Such is the case with Knitting Factory Records rerelease of Fela Kuti and Afrika 70’s 1976 album release “Opposite People” and 1977’s album “Sorrow, Tears and Blood”. These two recordings come out at the beginning and at the end of a Nigerian army’s deadly attack on Fela’s Kalakuta Republic, his attempt to create his own living situation within Nigeria. A complex story, one too long to describe here, but it did drive the feeling and content of these albums. The musical style is as described above. The political lyrics are pure Fela. “Opposite People” is a bit more subdued in it’s content, using a symbolism of pants and underwear to represent the commonality of all people. It’s great. “Sorrow, Tears and Blood” pulls no punches. It’s a direct hit aimed at the South African government and their betrayal of it’s people as well as a blatant, in your face protest against the Nigerian government and army for the take over of his home. Besides a whole lot of other stuff. No one does the political and social protest song with such a beat. Put Fela on the altar with Pete Seeger. The revolution is in your body. Just shake it!!!!!

Sani, Mammane – “La Musique Electronique Du Niger” – [Sahelsounds]

Cousin Mary   2/18/2014   12-inch, International

Mammane Sani’s music has been used as background in Niger for radio and television. This album comes from a recently discovered 1978 cassette where he plays an electric organ for melodies and a hint of percussion. It features repetitive, simple themes and mellow tempos. One internet reference I found says the music incorporates traditional African tunes.

PGM: Face B has an unlisted track 4.

Harisis Group – “Recordings of The Harisis Group From Northern Greece” – [Angry Mom Records]

Thurston Hunger   1/31/2014   7-inch, International

I’m more than happy to report “You haven’t heard the last of
Angry Mom.” Christopher King’s label unearths four more
Epirotic delights from old (1933) 78’s. All tracks are
instrumental featuring the Harisis family (first initials
only please) and special guest star G. Stathis on the laouto
(a Greek long-fretted lute). Mostly this is the M. Harisis
Experience, an explosion of clarinet creations. The A-side
features two dances and they do move rapidly. You could
almost call it punk clarinet, with the rough sound squeezed
out. And the furious flying of notes presages jazz. There’s
that feeling of a gypsy circus too. Things slow down on the
B-side, still M. Harisis’ clarinet is fluid and fast while
the pace of the songs tilts towards ballad (honoring a
“Hero Bandit” per the provided translation!) and then a lament. Nice that these three live on forever in KFJC’s sonic museum, even if without first names.

-Thurston Hunger

Mountains of Tongues [coll] – [LM Duplication]

Cousin Mary   1/10/2014   12-inch, International

Traditional music from the Caucasus Mountains features some languages previously not recorded and some instruments that are very rare. Add to that vocals, accordions, violins, and stringed instruments like balalaikas that produce melodies and harmonies that are not only of historical interest. Very enjoyable listens, even far from these mountains.

The Caucasus region is between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea and includes parts of Russia, Georgia, Azerbaijan, and Armenia.

Al Bilali Soudan – “Al Bilali Soudan” – [Clermont Music]

humana   12/17/2013   CD, International

The band hails from Timbuktu and is composed of family and friends. Aballow Yattara, the leader, knows how to rock the West African instrument called tehardent, which is a three-stringed, fretless creature considered a precursor to the banjo. The percussion comes from the calabash, a half-gourd that has been hollowed. The music is intended to accompany traditional dance, and what I like about it is how upbeat it sounds. I can imagine stomping around to it wailing in sorrow or in joy, or both, attesting to a heritage of feeling and story that can best be expressed by the very music you hear on this CD.

Bhattarcharya, Pandit Debashish – “Madeira” – [TriDev Music]

Thurston Hunger   11/1/2013   CD, International

Hypnotic, fluid sound stirred by the hand of a master. Whereas
the slide guitar in Western music adds a drop of dissonance
to an oderly song and scale, Pandit Debashish’s Hindustani
style is a part of the ocean of sound. No funny twist, no
drunken mistep, instead it takes to the clouds, the ephemeral
linger as on the title track but he can also work in a more frantic
fingerpicking foray, as found on “Morning Gait” At times that feels
like a parallel world of Bach on the bayou blues. In both those
soft sway of tambura is something we soak in, and brother
Subhasis Bhattarcharjee keeps the secret time of the universe
like only tabla can. Subhasis rises in prominence on more
driving, less floating “Jhoom” that’s the one if you’re looking
for a secret door to psych rock. Next up, the family affair
continues as father and daughter, Anandi, find a harmonic flow.
Her steadiness, his devotion. Notice the crisp as morning air
production. Lastly “O My Beloved” feels like a song with
bitter undercurrents, a gentle darkness to leave the listener
wanting more, and so we shall be rewarded with a live visit
11/1/2013. Check out the hand-fashioned instrument to match
the sounds.

-Thurston Hunger

Onyeabor, William – “Who Is William Onyeabor?” – [Luaka Bop]

mickeyslim   10/23/2013   CD, International

Funky international synth sounds from Nigeria. William Onyeabor allegedly studied cinematography in the Soviet Union, but returned to Nigeria to start his own record label. The Luaka Bop label claims he released 8 records from in the ’70s and ’80 before becoming a born-again Christian and refusing to speak about his music ever agian. There are claims he lives as a businessman in Enugu, Nigeria.

Synthed out funk waves, fun chant-y lyrics, playful, hoppy. “Atomic Bomb” was apparently the “hit” back in the day. There’s a fun horn section, handdrum and drum set action, and a sharp killer guitar.

CD1 has fat tracks, whereas CD2 has the edits (shorter tracks). Throw it in to kick some funky Nigerian jams!

Mukunguni – “New Recordings From Coast Province Kenya” – [Honest Jon’s]

humana   10/21/2013   10-inch, International

This is authentic traditional music featuring metal rings, marimbas, drums, hand-rubbing, bottlecaps, deep voices, field recordings, and many other traditional instruments recorded in the Mukunguni village during September 2011. There are spiritual, healing, and love songs here, and reading the liner notes on the sleeve is helpful, especially in learning the history of the music and rhythms contained on this 2-LP release.

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