Wednesday, 31 July 2013

New releases from Moonjune!

Currently playing...




Will soon be playing...




And finally, the unknown quantity...



All well worth our time, I've no doubt.

Sunday, 28 July 2013

La Coscienza di Zeno - Sensitività

La Coscienza di Zeno formed in Genoa in 2007, and they released their now hard to find self-titled debut album back in 2011 on Italian label Mellow Records

The band are named after a novel by Italo Svevo. La Coscienza di Zeno, or "The Confessions of Zeno", is a fictional diary written by the protagonist at the behest of his psychiatrist, depicting his problems with his business partner, his father, his wife, and his addiction to smoking, shining a spotlight on the contradictions therein. The diary was published by the psychiatrist in revenge for Zeno suddenly discontinuing his visits. Sounds like an interesting read!

Keyboard player and lyricist Stefano Agnini used themes from the novel in the lyrics for CdZ's first album, and it is fairly clear on listening that the lyrics are an important part of the musical jigsaw. Unless the lyricist writes in a fictional language, or is Jon Anderson at his most fanciful, understanding the lyrics in their native tongue is obviously a great help to any would be listener. However, as with all good Italian progressive music, the overall feel of CdZ's songs is transmitted more than adequately through the long instrumental passages in the music, and of course by the sheer sonorous beauty of the Italian language in the vocal sections.

With this new album, the lyrics for all but Tenue (Colombi) and Chiusa 1915 (Scherani, who also wrote the music for this one) were penned by Agnini, but the music for the whole album is spread fairly evenly between all the group members in various combinations. The only other solo composition on the music side is Tenue (Agnini). A quick Google Translate of the track titles reveals that "Tenue" is "Small intestine". I would love to see a translation of that particular song*!

The fact that this record is on AlrOck's subsidiary "traditional" progressive label Fading Records indicates that this band may be of the dreaded "neo-prog" subset. I do so dislike that term, but I suppose genre labels are initially useful if you know nothing of a band, although everyone has their own interpretation of what constitutes "neo" I'm sure. A quick glance at PA's page for that genre shows that the vast majority of the more well known bands listed there are not ones that I would normally listen to. But, hey, what it comes down to in the end is that any music is good, bad or indifferent, and we all have our own way of reaching our own subjective conclusions to that particular conundrum.

Why not ditch the categorisation and listen to this while reading:



When they started out the band used classic 70s English prog as their template, but soon changed direction to a more RPI based sound, a logical thing to do given the vast legacy of that marvellous scene. I profess to have barely scratched the surface of Italy's progressive rock heritage, but I can hear Banco del Mutuo Soccorso in there as well as Locanda delle Fate.

CdZ take these influences, and I've no doubt many more, to create lovely grandiose sweeping emotional epics, the 12 minute title track building to a giddy climax on the back of Alessio Calandriello's pleading but never straining vocals and the massed keys of the band. The end section revisits their earlier Genesis influence, and while I can only take this kind of thing in small doses, you can't help but be impressed by the band's sheer musicality.

A good Italian singer like Alessio could sing out his laundry list and make it sound like a love song, and the melancholy writ large in Tenue, the "Small intestine" song, might be a case in point. Where's that translation when I need it?

The intro of Luca Scherani's Chiusa 1915 is a Yes homage, replete with some highly Wakeman-esque piano, before turning back to the Italian atmosphere once the vocals kick in. The guitar and synth solos turn to Genesis, and this has turned into perhaps the most derivative song on the record, but it is redeemed by Alessio Calandriello's vocal performance. If I was in possession of such a thing, this is one track that would make my "neo radar" go into bleep overdrive. Nice if you like this sort of thing I suppose, but not for me.

Alessio continues to guide the band through the next song, a fairly sombre affair that definitely loses something for me, not being able to follow the lyric. A decent if fairly low-key piece of music, it has led me to the conclusion that the album flags a bit in the middle.

However things pick up with some sharp guitar picking over Mellotron backing to kick off Pauvre Misère, that although still heavily 70s influenced it is a nicely structured song, combining angular sections with a high sense of melody. This and the title track are my two favourite pieces of music on the album.

The modernistic twists on the classic 70s influence continue into La Temperanza but possibly not quite as successfully. There are moments of inspired writing on this album, but also moments of high cheesiness. I cannot fault the playing, but the sooner the band leave the 70s behind the better, as I am sure they are more than capable of writing a modern progressive rock epic. Perhaps Alessio's recent stint with avant-prog AltrOck supergroup Not A Good Sign will provide some of the inspiration?

* I think I know who can help on that score :)
....later...Raff came to the rescue as I knew she would. "Tenue" in this context means faint, subtle or flimsy. Never trust Google Translate!

Tracklist:

1. La Citta di Ditte (06:46)
2. Sensitività (12:22)
3. Tenue (03:31)
4. Chiusa 1915 (07:04)
5. Tensegrita (07:18)
6. Pauvre Misère (07:49)
7. La Temperanza (10:38)

Total running time - 55:30

Line up:

Alessio Calandriello - Voice
Gabriele Guidi Colombi - Bass
Andrea Orlando - Drums
Stefano Agnini - Synths
Davide Serpico - Guitars
Luca Scherani - Piano, Mellotron, accordion, bouzouki

Guests:
Joanne Roan - Flute
Sylvia Trabucco - Violin
Melissa Del Luchese - Cello
Rossano Villa - Mellotron

Buy this HERE

Saturday, 27 July 2013

The Stargazer's Assistant - Mirrors & Tides, Shivers & Voids

The Stargazer's Assistant is a side project of Guapo co-founder, David J. Smith. In that band he is a tremendously imaginative drummer and percussionist, but here he spreads his wings to experiment with many instruments and found sounds (see below), only to fall just short of "playing" a kitchen sink.

This delightfully presented double 10" 33rpm set is encased in a fine art print, and the whole package is simple yet effective, evoking just the right mood to compliment the wide cinematic vistas of the music. The art was by Patti Jordan, the design by Keith Utech, also the man behind the label of this release.

The album consists of a new EP Mirrors & Tides, which comprises the first three tracks, and a reissue of the Shivers & Voids EP from 2008, again on Utech Records.



Our journey begins with Coral Butterfly. We enter a submerged dreamscape through a portal provided by way of an analogue tape machine on fast forward. Our listening perspective is then left to swim around the murky depths inside the rotting hull of a long sunk ship on the ocean floor. Eerily calm, but ever aware of imminent danger and impending flight, the 17 minute Coral Butterfly wends its stately way in a world where time has stood still. Largely created by industrial synth washes and treated piano (possibly) the tension builds on a rising chord that drops away suddenly, and we are now in another universe entirely. Gossamer wings flutter, collide and separate incessantly to the sound of low bells echoing in the distance.

The bells quietly signal a change in atmosphere as multi-tracked and reverberating voices courtesy of David and Mika Rättö create a meditative mantra around the bells' low key but continuing insistence. I am put in mind of Bowie's Warszawa and the second side of Low in particular. The mantra slowly builds in volume but is never threatening, unlike the first part of this engaging and strange musical adventure.

Mirrors & Tides invites us to look inwards and inspect some dark and long forgotten corner of our psyche, to a repeated cyclical piano riff that ebbs and flows to the call of the Moon. Calming and not at all ominous this track perfectly compliments the previous intense epic.

There is a vastness and feeling of awe in the sounds on this album that you cannot help but be enthralled by. The delicate sounds of ghosts in caverns collide with helter-skelter darting hither and thither in the Secret Kingdom Of The Swift. Order is restored with tribal percussives and suddenly the chaos has a sense of purpose.

There is far more in this album than you will ever get out of a cursory background listen, although strangely it works that way too. I know I have said this before in many a review, but, if you have the chance, listen to this on a good hi-fi, or through decent headphones. It will be the aural equivalent of watching flowers bloom, albeit black roses.

We leave the dreamy world of Mirrors & Tides and head down to the spooky nightmarish scenery of Shivers & Voids. Night Soil should ideally be listened to in near total darkness for full frightening effect. There is a proper "jump out of your skin" moment in this track, but I will not spoil the surprise. The track ends with the monstrous being leaving the room, hidebound by chains, or at least it does in my imagination.

I had not heard this now five year old EP before, but Night Soil fits more into the dark territory of Guapo than the new tracks, but it is certainly not "Guapo-lite", and sufficiently different to be very interesting indeed.

The track Shivers & Voids features a darkly beautiful chanted mantra over a simple backing of reverbed low-end guitar notes, and it is very effective and emotive.

Ending with The Dream Kingdom, we enter an ancient world where gloomy pine forests that have stood undisturbed for centuries let in chinks of light on the rare times when the sun pokes its way through dark over-laden tumultuous clouds, always moving at a pace. Occasionally a dried out and dead branch crashes through the timeless canopy to the barren forest floor, strewn deep in very slowly decaying pine needles. In the distance an unseen small animal lets out a final breath....

Well that's how I see it, although I'm sure everyone will have their own interpretation. This is an album for those who love adventurous music making, in other words, true progressive music. Head over to Bandcamp and buy it now, and for those who can remember proper audio fidelity, buy the vinyl version at Utech Records. In any event the vinyl is worth buying for the artwork alone.

Looks like another to go on the end of year highlights list, methinks!

Tracklist:
Side A
Coral Butterfly (17:28)
Side B
Mirrors & Tides (4:34)
Secret Kingdom of the Swift (7:47)
Side C
Night Soil (9:14)
Shivers & Voids (6:16)
Side D
The Dream Kingdom (11:42)

Line up:
David J. Smith - Piano, synths, harmonium, acoustic guitar, percussion, tapes, samples, water bowl, fridge, chain, front door, matchbox, voice
Antti Uusimaki - Additional keyboards & effects
Mika Rättö - Vocals on Choral Butterfly
Sara Hübrich - Bowed thunderboard on Night Soil & The Dream Kingdom, violin, viola, both on The Dream Kingdom
Chloe Herrington - Bassoon on The Dream Kingdom

Five Years Of Kscope - Two Nights At The Garage - Night One, 24th July 2013, The Garage, Highbury, London

Another day in London for the intrepid gig-going duo from Shoesville, as the capital seems to be the only place within a sensible distance that you will consistently find interesting gigs these days. Quite what has happened to the gig circuit in this country is a discussion for another time, I'm sure.

Arriving on a pleasantly warm mid-afternoon after a leisurely train journey to the capital, Phil W and I for some reason thought that heading over to Covent Garden for a long cool drink would be good idea, forgetting what a tourist trap that area has always been. £3.75 for a Mint Cooler, which was essentially a glass of real lemonade with some lime segments and mint leaves floating in it highlighted that particular financial folly. Still, it did the job.

We then tubed it to Highbury & Islington, a locale where you can buy a flat over a shop for a mere £475000, or rent something similar for upwards of £800 a week, Apparently this area is des-res, though from a stroll up the the Holloway Road you would be hard pushed to guess that, the one exception being a shop full of tat called "Ooh La La". I half expected Harry Enfield to be stood in the doorway; "I saw you coming", indeed"!*

Then we met up with my mate Pete over a rather scrumptious pizza in an eaterie directly opposite the venue. Pete would later tell me that my idiot dancing to Amplifier inspired in him a mix of awe and abstract fear, which at my age I'm quite proud of! You see, having stood for four hours it was a case of move or seize up. The downside of this is that as the temperature in the venue must have been close to 100F and the humidity at a dishcloth-wringing 100%, I sweated half my bodyweight in the time I was there.

Anyway, this is supposed to be a gig review, not an old codger's medical report, so here goes:

Compere for the night was Billy Reeves, the man behind Kscope's entertaining podcasts. Thanking us for coming, he introduced the first act, and the real reason I came to this, the first, rather than the second night of this splendid beano.

Henry Fool are one of those studio-only bands that come together once in a blue moon when its members' schedules allow, and we were lucky enough to witness a rare live appearance from this splendid jazz-prog combo, showcasing their equally wonderful album Men Singing. Starring Myke Clifford on sax and flute, who also acted as a dryly humorous frontman, aided and abetted by no-man alumni Stephen Bennett on keyboards and musical direction, Mike Bearpark on lead guitar, Tim Bowness on noise guitar and effects, and Andy Booker on the drums. Guesting on bass was none other than Colin Edwin, who is actually not as tiny as I had remembered from Porcupine Tree's Albert Hall appearance! The band gave us a marvellous helping of jazz-prog with a large slice of Canterbury and pre-ambient Eno influence, but all within a modern frame of reference.

A band dressed in black

Being first on, a good third of the near-capacity 500ish crowd had yet to turn up. It was their loss, believe me. Myke Clifford was for me the undoubted star of the show, his firey sax playing in particular being of a consistently high standard, sometimes venturing into free-jazz territory reminiscent of Ornette Coleman no less. This man should be an internationally recognised star, no question. Henry Fool were, for me at any rate, decidedly the musical if not the emotional highlight of the evening, and their mere half hour on stage was not nearly enough. Given the heat, the band would probably disagree!

Luckily the band were so enthused by their performance that they have since annouced on their Facebook page that more gigs are being planned...well, "talked about" is the phrase they use. Let's hope it comes to fruition.

After a dash to the bar for more pints of tapwater, which being free was a no-brainer given that a small bottle of the life-saving liquid was selling at a wallet melting £2.10. I found this out when I asked a guy next to me at the bar who had just bought one. Ironically he said "Yeah, but it is the cheapest thing here". Let's just say he wasn't amused when I replied with "Watch this" and promptly ordered three pints of tapwater, gratis. Wahey!

Next up, and "Flown in all the way from Rome" for the occasion were atmospheric post-proggers Nosound. Band leader Giancarlo Erra was wearing his Burning Shed 10th anniversary t-shirt, a blinding gig where Phil and I had caught his solo set showcasing the splendid Memories Of Machines album Warm Winter. Nosound's thing is grandiose slow paced minor key epics topped by Giancarlo's guitar freakouts, or, in the case of closer Paralysed a long howl from the soul that teeters at the edge of his vocal range conveying true emotion. The sheer force of his vocal effort left him breathless, and was a fitting end to the set.

Another band dressed in black

To be honest I prefer the stripped down acoustic versions of Nosound's slow burning heart stoppers, which Giancarlo has released on the rather fine album The Northern Religion Of Things. In the full band format the consistently low pace of the songs lends the dynamics something of a one-dimensional feel. Having said that, the crowd loved it, and Giancarlo shows his not inconsiderable chops when he lets rip on his guitar, in a style recalling a more animated Dave Gilmour.

As is the way with gigs featuring more than a couple of acts, time was running short, and so Giancarlo had to jettison The Anger Song, which they had intended to play before Paralysed.

Next up were Bruce Soord and Jonas Renske, amusingly introduced by Billy as being from "The wild west and the frozen north". While the latter may only be a slight exaggeration in the case of Jonas, hailing as he does from Stockholm, I have never until now considered Yeovil to be in the slightest "wild". Is there something I should know?

A band, this time somewhat obsidian

Bruce, the main man with The Pineapple Thief, and Jonas, lead singer with Katatonia, took time out from their respective bands to get together and record The Wisdom Of Crowds album. Now, I have to admit that 50% of this band is an unknown quantity for me, as Katatonia are a band I have yet to investigate. The Pineapple Thief is the other extreme; I am probably too familiar with them, having seen them at least four times relatively recently, either as support act or headliners.

After a quick YouTube investigation of Katatonia, it seems their stock in trade is doomy metal tinged songs on the subject of loneliness and depression. This is only slightly more sombre that Bruce's usual lovelorn subject matter, so the latter writing an album's worth of songs for the former seems a natural fit.

After Nosound it was good that their songs upped the ante considerably. The predominantly electronic backing provided by the keyboard player's Apple laptop gave the songs an electro-indie feel, sometimes recalling Massive Attack, and at other times Depeche Mode at their darkest. Ending with a rather fine song called The Frozen North on a night like this was an irony not lost on us three.

At the end of their set a fan at the front presented Bruce with a pineapple, as you do!

The venue was now packed out as the boys from Amplifier set up their equipment. It is good to see that Charlie Barnes has graduated from the fan we saw at 2000 Trees back in 2009 via the merch desk at subsequent shows, to become the full band member that he is now. Contributing a third (!) guitar to the line up, some keyboards and harmony vocals, Charlie gives the band an injection of yet more energy, not that they needed it.

Once the band had assumed their stage positions, Sel wryly informed us that tonight in this hothouse atmosphere was "A great night to wear a black shirt"... "And a tie" someone shouted from the audience. The Amplifier uniform was all black, as always, and indeed every other act also wore that colour, which these days seems de rigueur for most bands. Why, one wonders, under the hot lights, especially on a night as steamy as this? Guitarist Steve Durose was towelling himself down before they had even started!

Atramentous, with ties...

Having filled the entire room with dry ice, Amplifier then treated us to a howling intro that led into Spaceman from the Sunriders EP, that came with the deluxe edition of the utterly fabulous Echo Street album from earlier this year. This kicked things off in a suitably intense fashion, only slightly marred by the mostly inaudible bass guitar during the song proper, but we knew this was going to be good. The bass glitch was sorted out by the second song The Wheel, its undercurrent of repeated menace and hypnotic mantra-like coda suited the sub-tropical conditions to a tee.

The only songs not from the last two albums were the last one in the main set, fan favourite Motorhead, and the encore Airborne, those two comprising the first two songs from their very first self-titled album, released back in 2005.

But, before we get to that, mention must be made of the set highlight, an absolutely IMMENSE version of the classic rock spectacular that is Extra Vehicular. At this moment in time I cannot think of a better anthem than this monster, and Amplifier should be filling stadiums with this glorious racket if there was any justice at all. It was great to see Charlie leaping about with his sci-fi guitar, obviously having a ball, in fact the whole band were having a real good time, and are justly proud of their efforts, sons of guns that they are!

You may have guessed by now that this was the song that had me moving in such a way as to inspire in Pete the awe and abstract fear mentioned way up there somewhere, bless 'im!

They then brought on Bruce Soord for Matmos, and the man from the Wild West was slingin' yet another geetar, but perhaps wisely it was an acoustic, and he also lent his voice to a storming version of the Echo Street album opener.

Unlike me, as Pete didn't or couldn't move/dance/have a fit, he did seize up, so the three of us left after Motorhead having been standing up for over four hours, no mean feat when you consider our combined age is 307, and despite the creeping fusion of the lower lumbar regions a great time was had by all.

All credit must go to the sound technicians who did a sterling job, and to the few roadies who helped each band set up their equipment, a job that must have been hard work in the oppressive heat and humidity. As far as I know, Nosound were the only band that had to cut short their set, and the whole shebang was almost seamlessly organised. Congrats to the person or persons behind the logistics!

Happy Birthday to Kscope, the UK's premier label for forward thinking music, and let's hope you last at least another five years so we can do this thang all over again!

PS - If anyone who reads this went to the second night, I want to know all about it!

 *A UK-only reference - sorry! :)

Setlists:

Henry Fool
Everyone In Sweden
Almost The End Of Everything
Poppy Q
Poppy Z
Tim also said "The band would have performed a song (with vocals) but for the fact that I had a bad throat infection / cold and couldn't speak. The heat didn't help, of course!"
Thanks to Tony Kinson via Tim Bowness for giving me this info

Nosound
Places Remained
Fading Silently
I Miss the Ground
Paralysed
Thanks to Giancarlo for giving me this list

Bruce Soord & Jonas Renske
They definitely did The Frozen North. Again, any help to fill in this gap appreciated.

Amplifier
Spaceman
The Wheel
The Wave
Interglacial Spell
Extra Vehicular
Matmos (with Bruce Soord)
Paris In The Spring
Motorhead

Encore:
Airborne

Investigate and buy some fine sounds HERE.

Tuesday, 23 July 2013

Rhùn - Ïh

Rhùn are a French band, obviously in thrall to Magma, right down to the sub-Kobaïan language their songs are sung in, by a band-leader drummer in partnership with a female lead, no less!

With the apt tag line "Fanfare du chaos", Rhùn charge straight into your personal space with opener Toz, the first of three tracks that comprised their debut EP Ïh, released back in December 2012, and now represented here along with three earlier demos to flesh out the running time to a not over-taxing forty one minutes. The whole thing has been mastered by the skilful hands of Udi Koomran to his usual high fidelity standard.




This is the previous edition of the EP. For the remastered samples, go here:



Thanks to Udi Koomran for putting me right!


Toz is a crazy runaway train of a track, featuring traditional Zeuhl call-and response vocals, honking saxes, wild guitar sections, and all-encompassing madness. It is a fitting introduction to Rhùn's wild but familiar universe. Then we have the charming Intermud, starring Ensemble Patagrulair, a chamber rock quartet of some style and panache. While none of this is particularly unique, it is an involving and soulful experience. The band obviously love what they are doing, and their take on the Magma experience is given some individuality by the frequent interjections of Thybo's angular and occasionally jarring guitar runs.

No Zeuhl sound is complete without some thunderous bass playing, and Damoon does not disappoint. The final track of the EP triumvirate, Dunb, is a mini-operetta and symphony that builds on a theme underpinned by a crashing behemoth of a bass part from M. Damoon, eventually developing into one of those lurching marching rhythms so beloved of the genre, to the accompaniement of a repeated vocal chant and sundry strange shouting. Nice stuff, indeed!

The Bhönus (demo 2008) is a more stripped down affair, and features a slightly different line up, and Udi Koomran has done a fine job tidying up the audio of these demos. The sound is more open and spacious, though the Magma influence is still writ large. I'm also put in mind of the crazier elements of Gong, especially with the crazed loon lead vocals and squealing sax runs on Bùmlo.

Some nicely busy but never intrusive drumming on Mlùez show that the good Captain Flapattak knows his way round his kit when he's not barking his odd utterances into a microphone. This track is jazz, Captain, but not as we know it. The ensemble of saxophones play tag with the guitar, everything else joins in, and we're off on another charge through the countryside leaving wanton destruction in our wake, the guitar of Thybo going on a slash'n'burn mission at the finale. It's a bit of a riot, this album!

The belated title track is left until last, and a quiet intro starts off on a slow trajectory, psychedelic guitar upping the ante, but pulling up short leaving us with a fleeting but curiously late period Soft Machine figure that takes its own languid path to some far-flung galaxy where off-kilter jazz-fusion at the edge of space charms our Zeuhl-obssesed companions with a laid back and woozy groove. This is different to what has gone before and shows that this mad Gallic band are not merely slaves in the temple of Magma. 

Rhùn are a fine and capable band who show more than a little promise on this great little album. One hopes they further develop their twist on the Magma sound into something as unique as their undoubted talent deserves. One to watch out for in the future.

Tracklist: 

Ïh
1. Toz (9:25)
2. Intermud (3:00)
3. Dunb (8:57) 
Bhönus (demo 2008)
4. Bùmlo (5:34)
5. Mlùez (6:16)
6. Ïh (8:18)

Total running time - 41:28

Line up: 

Ïh
Captain Flapattak - drums, lead vocals
Damoon - bass, vocals
Thybo - guitar, vocals
Sam - baritone & alto sax, alto clarinet, traverse flute, vocals
Fabien De Kerbalek - guitar, vocals
Brunöh - tenor & soprano sax, bassoon, vocals
Marïon Mouette - lead vocals, percussions
With the Ensemble Pantagrulair:
Séverine - traverse flute, picolo
Bémi - oboe
Catherine - clarinet
Pierre - horn 

Bhönus (demo 2008)
Captain Flapattak - drums, vocals
Sir Alron - bass
Thybo - guitar
Sam - baritone & alto sax, alto clarinet, traverse flute
Fabien De Kerbalek - guitar, vocals
Brunöh - tenor & soprano sax, bassoon
Emelie Massue - vocals, percussions

Buying links are few and far between, but you can get this from AltrOck in Europe, or from Wayside in the States (possibly!).

Saturday, 13 July 2013

uKanDanZ - Yetchalal

CD Version
And now for something...a bit different. Describing themselves on their website,  somewhat aptly one has to say, as "Ethiopian Crunch Music", uKanDanZ are a unique amalgam of French jazz and rock players delivering an almost ska-like sound filtered through a Gallic RIO blender, and played at volume 11, and an Ethiopian singer by the name of Asnaké Gèbrèyès. This certainly is a "crunch"!

Back in 2010 they were a quartet playing ethnic jazz when they met up with Asnaké in Addis Ababa, and made the demo which eventually led to the album.
Vinyl version

The CD version was issued in 2012, and this year saw the release of the vinyl version. It was probably down to cost, but they should have stuck with the CD cover for the record too, as it gives a little clue as to the sheer amount of joy and energy expressed within, something the rather stark LP cover (to your right) fails to do.

The music presented on Yetchalal is a non-stop burst of primal ethnic-jazz vibrancy, topped off with Asnaké's forceful vocals, which is just as well, for a weaker singer could well be drowned in the visceral noise this group create!



Opener Aykèdashem Lebé bursts out of the speakers like an uninvited, garrulous and inebriated guest arriving at a party unannounced. Such is our gatecrasher's infectious enthusiasm initial wariness gives way to total acceptance in a matter of seconds. Distorted low-end guitar and barking alto sax conjure an almost Zeuhl-like marching rhythm; and this album is all about rhythm, oh yes. If you think you can't dance, by the end of Yetchalal you may well have convinced yourself, at least, that you can indeed cut a rug.

After this introductory burst of natural energy Asnaké's cascading Ethiopian tones chime in and come as a real musical surprise, but one that works really well. Being a fan of the Éthiopiques series of CDs released by Paris-based world music specialists Buda Musique from the late 90s onwards I did have an inkling of what to expect, but the combination of fast punky avant-jazz and the Ethiopian celebratory vocal style is a new one on me for sure. Incidentally it is no coincidence that this album is also released by Buda Musique, but I was surprised when checking the Éthiopiques discography that it now runs to some 28 volumes! that's about 23 more than I possess. Somebody stop time, there's so much music out there and not enough time in the universe to even scratch the surface!

It is also surprising to note that for a group that relies so heavily on the rhythm section, that there is no bass guitar in the line up. Daniel Cluzel compensates for this with a lot of low-end rumblings and distortions, and the use of a baritone guitar, an instrument not that common in the rock world.

Asnaké is a great frontman, and a natural showman; Daniel Cluzel, the guitarist, looks never too far from putting his guitar down and joining in with the boogie, as you can see from the YouTube videos available. For some reason Blogger is not letting me post them here, but I'm sure you can find them for yourself!

This album is not all about irrepresible energy; there are slower interludes, the dark and moody La Chamelle - Medinana Zèlèssèyna being a case in point. The first part is uKanDanZ's instrumental twist on what could be a New Orleans funeral marching rhythm, but is probably the meter of a walking camel; the "La Chamelle" of the title. Asnaké sings a plaintive and emotionally charged paen over the second part, and this is completely different to the high energy Aykèdashem Lebé, but nevertheless fits in perfectly. 

This is one great little album and unlike anything else I've heard this year. Highly recommended to those of you who occasionally like to venture away from the Western world on your musical travels.

Tracklist:
1. Aykèdashem Lebé (6:11)
2. Addis Ababa Bété (5:21)
3. Wub Nat (4:48)
4. Bèlomi Bènna (3:09)
5. Sema (4:21)
6. La Chamelle - Medinana Zèlèssèyna (9:16)
7. Datsun Sèfèr - Mèla Mèla (5:26)

Line up:
Asnaké Gèbrèyès - vocals
Damien Cluzel -guitar & baritone guitar
Lionel Martin - tenor saxophone
Fred Escòuffier - keyboards
Guilhem Meier - drums

Band website: http://www.ukandanz.com/

Buy from Buda Musique

2017 - A Year In Review

Gimme live meat, now Well, that's another year over, and the Matrix, which went "RAAAWWWWGGGGGHHHH!!!" before projectile-...