HARMONIA ENSEMBLE. Meets Zappa.
Materiali Sonori MASOCD 90067.
Not sure who to thank first here, the label or the Ensemble? As readers of MD should know, Materiali Sonori are quite an eclectic Italian label who have released some stunning material over the last few years. The Wolf And The Moon, almost all their Roger Eno albums, as well as the Arturo Stalteri's remarkable album of Brian Eno covers. Harmonia Ensemble, if I'm not mistaken, aren't exactly new to Zappa's work either! This album has been re-released with two extra tracks, so in total we now have sixteen tracks. To be give the Ensemble even more credit (of which they deserve), they don't just cover some of Zappa's music, they feature one or twoof their own. Like the proverbial chameleon, their music blends and fits in like a glove, perfectly suited to this album. Out of the Zappa pieces, I reckon pride of place has to go to Waka/Jawaka, Peaches En Regalia and Intro To Music For Low Budget Orchestra, but to be fair, all the Zappa covers are simply stunning. It was often said that a lot of Zappa's more challenging work (mainly the Synclavier stuff) was just simply impossible for the human to play, well, I think this lot would tackle it, because this is magic. And yes, I do enjoy Zappa, and this is a superb and quite touching tribute to the man. Like I say, full credit to them, and the label. Check out the links page on the Modern Dance website, and see what gems unfold...(Dw)
UNDERWORLD. A Hundred Days Off. JBO. JBO201023
They had a massive hit with Born Slippy a few years ago thanks to the film Trainspotting. Although now only a duo, Karl Hyde and Rick Smith continue to follow their unique style of music with another ten compositions. Generally developing rhythms is one of their particular trademarks and their music is not so easily accepted on first hearing, but you will never tire of these involved compositions. The range of material varies from the hard edge of the dancefloor as heard on the single Two Months Off to the easy listening aspect of Ballet Lane, which is impressive to say the least. The opening piano chords on Twist are so simple yet so fascinating as the instrumental develops into a much more intricate affair with many melodies, rhythms and a complex beat. It is a true reflection of high quality adult music available here. The following song, Sola Sistim is more sorrowful with a slower beat and growling basslines that will test the speakers to destruction. Trim is a great song with lots of funky attitude that will have you reaching for the repeat button. The gentle guitar laden Ess Gee will surprise many as this is not usually what Underworld are about, but displays another fine aspect of their ability to vary the music. At first, I thought this album was only average and the lads could do much better, but with subsequent exposure, I now realise that Underworld have done a lot better. Magnificent. (Brooky)
VARIOUS. Africanism mixed by DJ
Gregory & Bob Sinclair. Defected.
A double mixed CD by two well-respected DJ's each showing their differing styles on this interesting project. The title is defined as a New World collision of African rhythm and digital futurism. In simple terms the ancient tribal beats are brought bang up to gate with the latest Western house sounds all combined to give a happy dance track or two. You will have difficulty in evading this collection as the infectious nature of it all is bound to overpower. Damelo by DJ Gregory starts with one of those standard club beats, which then introduces the powerful horn section and Latin style rhythms to show what can be achieved by inventive remixers. A lead guitar giving it all appears in the middle of Los Amigos Invisibles' Bruja which you would have thought would sound completely out of context, but it actually works. On the second disc mixed by Bob Sinclair, the tribal beats are much more pronounced and taking tracks such as Kazet. The following My Dub, is not true dub as such, but rather a peculiar blend of African and house with a smattering of those killer beats. On Les Efents Du Bled, the mood is more reflective, the proud beat is matched by more subdued melodies. Don't get me wrong, it's still dance music, but perhaps aimed for the latter hours of a party before the chilled mood pervades. The sixties style long organ type notes add to the curious atmosphere. The finale is entitled Zulu's and it piques your imagination to what it must sound like being out in the bush plains of Africa with the indigenous sounds. It's not house as you know it, but one of the more interesting aspects of this diverse package. This is French house music with that added African twist to spice up your life. (Philly)
SIMIAN. We Are Your Friends. Source.
Mancunian outfit Simian produce a sound that is best described as 60's psychedelia, West coast rock and electronica. At times you get the distinct impression that the Beatles (in their late 60's incarnation) have suddenly time-travelled to the 21st century. On first listening there's a lot to enjoy with this album. There are great melodies and some excellent soaring harmonies, together with hypnotic beats, drums and the usual electronic pips and squeaks. Apparently their previous album had a folky feel to it, but this album seems to have more rock energy; only the track When I Go seemed to me at first to have the touch of the Levellers about it, but that soon changed. The harmonies are a joy to behold and again have you thinking of the Beach Boys. All the tracks have a strong bass backing throughout. My favourite track End Of The Day has a thumping drum 'n bass and pulsating synth beat backing. Also She's In Mind is worth a mention, it kicks off with acoustic guitar and contains some excellent harmonies. Apparently, while they were recording this album in London, Brian Eno came in and confused them by lending them toys they didn't understand and showing them processes they never thought of. It's certainly a very enjoyable, out of the ordinary album and well worth spending money on. (Liam)
TAMA. Espace. Real World CDRW106
Tama is a group featuring musicians from Mali, Guinea Bissau and London and mixes together a rich tapestry of ethnic rhythms and sounds from across Africa. While the music is dance orientated it isn't too heavy on the dance beats and leans more atmospherically towards the compounds of Africa than the London clubs. The musicians; Tom Diakite, Mamani Keita, Djanuno Dabo and Sam Mills plus their stellar guest list of top world music musicians gell together superbly here and have created an album of quite joyous music - songs with a deep groove that leave you feeling pretty damn happy. In these days of doom and gloom one can't really ask for more than that. (Hal)
LEE SCRATCH PERRY. Wonderman Years.
During the recent BBC Jamaica season of tv programmes they ran a short documentary series about the history of reggae music, and for someone like myself who has only dipped a toe into this type of music it was both an eye and ear opener. One of the major talents covered in this series was record producer/composer/musician and genius, Lee Perry. And with perfect timing Trojan have brought out this 2 CD, 49 track collection of some of his work. These CDs bring together the best of Perry's early 1970's work released on his Justice League label Now it has to be said that Perry worked best as a producer, so while this collection is 100% 'Scratch' it also features the talents of a wide variety of reggae artists. Check this list out: Bob Marley and the Wailers, Big Youth, The Upsetters, Denis Alcapone, Junior Byles, Peter Tosh, Agustus Pablo, The Stingers, plus many more I've never heard of - and of course tracks by Perry himself. Most of my reggae listening has been focused on Bob Marley's Island Records period, so to hear all this talent is certainly an education. Perry was a man who knew the value of a good tune - there are several backing tracks here which have been re-used with different lyrics and vocalists, and in many instances end up with a very different vibe to the original. There are even some very early examples of dub on here too. I'm sure that purist reggae fans will snap up the Wonderman Years immediately, but its appeal is wider than that, and it acts as a pretty good primer for early 70's reggae and the mad genius that is Lee Perry. (Johnny Boy)
MR SCRUFF. Trouser Jazz. Ninja
With lots of jazzy breaks in a traditional style, you could be led into an early conclusion that here is an album full of standard lines from a bygone era. If you have the stamina to survive listening for more than 10 seconds, you will realise that the brass sections have been lifted from a previous generation and mixed with up to date electronic sounds to form a style that is not all that common! Add a female voice of course singing in a jazz style and synths from the early seventies and this peculiar mixture is somehow refreshing. The funk is certainly very prevalent on Shrimp and again the brass section blend in marvellously to make this a toe-tapping experience of great magnitude. The Valley Of The Sausage (good title) has a Latin feel and vocal harmonisation that would not be out of place in the classiest of jazz clubs. Come On Grandad, has a great beat and is chock full of class. On the song Vibrate, I was amazed to be confronted with what is essentially a jazz rap track that will certainly perplex many listeners, yet the vocals by Braintax are not delivered in a fast and furious style, but rather more measured. The lyrics still bite though. The finale is a quirky, some would say tongue in cheek rendition of fishy tales by well known Children's TV presenters set to music and appropriately entitled Ahoy There! Effectively recorded at home in the new studio, Mr Scruff has succeeded in providing an album full of invigorating tracks that do break the mold and anyone with an ounce of patience will readily warm to what is a very fine CD. (Philly)
MORENO + 2. Music Typewriter.
Brazil has been a hotbed of musical style for more years than anyone can count, but it's only comparatively recently that this has spread beyond the South American continent and become widely heard across the world. Moreno Veloso is one of a new generation of Brazilian singer/songwriters who has taken the classic bossa nova music form and modernised it, adding carnival elements and created something that can be intricate and gossamer thin one moment and muscular and full of street vibrancy the next. The album is nominally acoustic, just Moreno and his guitar and piano, with occasional slashes of electric accompaniment by his band, plus some trippy ambience in the background. There's a strong dreamlike feel to this album, Moreno has one of those light and high voices that slide effortlessly over the instruments, it takes a little getting used to but it is a plus factor once you sync into this album. If you want to check out the contemporary in Brazil then this is definitely one of the albums and artists you should put on your list. (Johnny Boy)
AMON TOBIN. Out From Out Where.
Ninja Tune. ZENCD70
Some reviews are very wordy with little actual information given and you are often left not really knowing whether the album is good or crap. I will speak plainly in this sentence and reveal that Tobin makes exceptionally good music. His style is a strange mixture of pseudo orchestral (Pictures At An Exhibition), drum 'n bass beats and cinematic scores and that is only the opening track Bach From Space. The next track, Verbal is a modified big beat epic that almost defies description with acoustic guitar riffs amongst a mass of other sounds. Searchers contain an abundance of lush orchestral passages and a down tempo beat that is surely the gateway to the one of the most enigmatic parts of this CD. Time to change my mind as the next track Hey Blonde is even better with its enthralling spaced out vibes that has a dramatic effect on your mood. The mean plodding beat that keeps entering Rosie is perfectly blended with the melodious moments to create aural excitement. Don't imagine that this is all musical sweetness as Triple Science has very disturbing non-traditional notations that will scramble any brain. Recovery is soon obtained on the following 9th track, although some may find the assembly of musical styles and instruments all a bit too much for juvenile minds. Tobin definitely composes in a testing way that continually expands the boundaries whilst basically retaining your attention is such a way that you become totally absorbed. Proper Hoodidge is another fine example of his ability to rearrange what is familiar into something that is unusual and beguiling. In plain speaking... This album is brilliant and don't let anybody persuade you otherwise. (Brooky)