Sunday, May 07, 2006

Abstract Index playlist - April 26/06

I'm tempted to apologize for my absence, but I think posts which apologize for the blogger's absence are rivalled only by posts which use the term "blogosphere". It's early May in Toronto, people, time for us Canadians to reacquaint ourselves with our neighbours, not spend quite so much time in front of the computer.

As for the radio show, one disc which has been in heavy rotation has been the delightful "Ok Oyot System" by Extra Golden. It's a collaboration between two DC based musicians who play in a band called Golden and two Kenyan musicians hailing from Orchestra Extra Solar Africa, who are an distant offshoot of one of the great Kenyan Benga bands of all time, Shirati Jazz. This is the kind of collaboration we're going to see more of in the future: Ian Eagleson went to Kenya to do a doctoral thesis on Benga, his friend Alex Minoff eventually joined him and the recordings came together pretty spontaneously with singer and instrumentalist Otieno Jagwasi playing a catalytic role. Spontaneous recordings are easier and easier to do in Africa - or anywhere - when using the mixing board plugged into the laptop set up which is glimpsed in the CD booklet. With regards to recording in Africa, this is important for several reasons, the most important of which is that computers run on batteries, so regular, uninterrupted power of consistent voltage is no longer a factor - that's huge, so long as you can recharge the batteries somewhere at some point. Another advantage is not having to deal with the politics, expenses, idiosyncratic equipment and engineers in a costly studio. Thirdly, the possibilities for artists to have greater control over the entire musical process is greatly enhanced with the capabilities of hard disk recording*.

Musically, the best tracks on this disc state the obvious for me, which is that there is common ground between guitar bands the world over. It's an eternal mystery to me why soukous, benga, and the mbaquanga of the 70s, which have as many as 4 guitars rockin' full bore over a conventional bass and drums rhythm section have not made more inroads into rock (which it once did, check out this not-completely-uninformed but kind of obnoxious review by the Dean Of American Rock Critics). John Peel was all over this stuff - there's a great passage in his bio about his wife organizing a surprise party for him featuring Zimbabwe's Four Brothers, who went on to record a scorching 'Peel Sessions' set for him. (He was also a Stella Chiweshe fan, see below). The US musicians totally understand the rhythmic drive of classic Benga, and interface seamlessly with the Kenyan musicians. The Americans bring guitar tones which evoke the classic tremoloed sounds of the 60s African guitars, but also distortion and phasing effects which are unusual and wonderful in this context. Also, the song structures are extended and constantly changing - definitely more rock oriented than Benga, but again, sympathetic all around. But, oh,the groove - everything is on the one. Drummer Onyango Wuod Omari plays nothing but kick, snare and hihat, and swings super-hard - it's impossible not to move to this.

I like the lyrics too, Eagleson and Minoff have a real grasp on the storytelling concepts and use of parables that so often characterize African methods of relating ideas and illustrating the hardships of life. They don't hide behind the music and let "some African guy" put a face on their words and music, they're right up front too with their frequently nerdy vocals. Good for them. Not everything works on this album, but many songs are sublime. It's a natural fit for everyone involved, no one is in a comfort zone, rather, there's a marvellous interchange of ideas all around.

*this is one of the least talked about aspects of the Congotronics series, that the artists helped mix the record, I can't think of too many examples where African artists have had a say in this process, much less artists who had never been in a recording studio before. Apparently, Congotronics 3, which will be released later this year, will be mixed entirely in Kinshasa.

the inflated tear - roy nathanson (aum fidelity)
flashback - fred anderson (delmark)
string over skin - hanuman sextet (rcrcd)
track 5 - sao paolo underground (aesthetics)
wine cave - sussan deyhim (crammed)
fantasia for clarinet - kocani orkestar (crammed)
chachimurenga - stella chiweshe (piranha)
peace pipe - b.t. express (soul jazz)
ricochet - outernational (indie)
osama rach - extra golden (thrill jockey)
book of right on - nomo (ubiquity)
my opinion - pato banton (ariwa)
moving sand - dub guerilla (enja)
nasha ljubov - amsterdam klezmer band (essay)
return from planet elrica - dubble standart rmx. by superlisteners (collision cause of chapter 3)
livity - ex-centric sound system feat richie bless (EXS)
promise dub - resinators (indie)
north of the sun - jackie mittoo (blood and fire)


Post a Comment

<< Home