December 1, 2006

Lizzy Mercier Descloux - Zulu Rock

Call it synergy: Lizzy Mercier Descloux’s self-titled third album (repackaged here as Zulu Rock) paired the urgent optimism of the French singer with the sweet, sunny sounds of local South African musicians. Predating Paul Simon’s worldbeat excursions on Graceland, Zulu Rock expanded on the funky Afro/Caribbean flirtations of Mambo Nassau, adding in bits of reggae, French pop, and African highlife, while removing the last traces of the atonal post-punk bite Descloux showed early in her career. Throughout the liner notes of all her reissues on the Ze label, Descloux is described as someone that empathically embraced the culture she was in, whether it be Paris, Manhattan, Nassau, Johannesburg, or Rio de Janeiro. But don’t call it dilletantism, call it an infatuation with music and life. And that’s something inspiring.

CBS Records / Ze Records
1984 / 2006

[Michael F. Gill]

October 20, 2006

Tony Allen - Moyege


Mark Ernestus takes two stabs at afrobeat legend Tony Allen’s “Moyege,” with a vocal mix and a dub. One of his simmering (and I hesitate to call ‘em this) slow jams, the star here is the bass, full-bodied and shaking like a voluptuous maiden at sunset. Offset by Allen’s usual sparkling polyrhythmic percussion work, it’s really the kind of thing one feels almost ashamed to be listening to at home—it warrants a cold drink, the feeling of sand in your toes and such buoyancy of your body that you could swear you just hovered in mid-air for a full second. The “Disco Dub” widens out the bass and pushes it to the point where it’s more a part of your body than a conscious sound. Warmth personified.

Honest Jon’s / HJP32
[Mallory O’Donnell]

February 10, 2006

Bonde Do Role - Melo Do Tabaco


Brazil’s indigenous hip-hop form, known as baile,carioca, or just “funk” has received a bit of attention stateside thanks in good part to the efforts of Florida DJ Diplo. Appropriately enough, the first release on his Mad Decent label is a four-tracker from Bonde Do Role, two guys and a girl who make a slightly more accessible and pop-tastic version of Rio funk. The usual genre touchstones (Miami bass, 80’s hip-hop, American pop samples, Portugese rapping) apply, but so too does a willingness to expand the usual booty-fixated sound to something more universal—the title track samples Alice in Chains(!) and “Jabuticaba” is based on “Doo Wah Diddy,” for starters. Like feijoada, the communal festival dish of black beans cooked in various vegetables and “fifth quarter” meats, Bonde Do Role serve up something uniquely spicy and Brazilian from the discarded pieces of American pop music. Diplo’s remix, though a laudable attempt to pick up more of those pieces and refashion the original, feels sadly out of place. His channel-switching mix of Fruity Loops-gone mad and FM radio-clutter sweeping across distorted snatches of “Bonde Do Role” is pleasing in its component parts, but ends up a little too willfully experimental to challenge the raw joy of the original.

Mad Decent / 001
[Mallory O’Donnell]

March 17, 2005

Hieroglyphic Being - The Temple Of The Moon


Went to Germany last week and while what follows will mostly be Kompakt-related gushing, at the Hardwax store they were playing this little gem of a 7” on the stereo and even my friend who doesn’t like techno at all had to admit that it was something special. What it comes down as is tribal techno of an abstract bent. African and Caribbean drum sounds make up the base, while hazy off-kilter synths weave in and out of the two tracks. Strong stuff to scare off the uninitiated or, in the case of my friend, draw them in.

Mathematics / Mathematics 006
[Todd Burns]