African Music: Imported and Immigrated
Beyond releases I’m anticipating, I think I’m winding down on new albums I’ll listen to this year as I review what’s in my stock and finish determining what’s A-level and what isn’t from what I already have. So I’ll round out at having heard about 250 2012 releases. Although I keep track of other albums from years past that I’ve only heard for the first time this year, I don’t have a definite number on it, but you can probably tack on another 100 or so, probably more. I promise within the next few posts to release a deluge of Honorable Mentions, Choice Cuts, and Lemons. As far as that post-election comment is coming, it’ll probably drop on Tuesday, officially two weeks after the voting. Until then, enjoy some under-the-radar releases.
ANTIBALAS – Antibalas (Daptone): Afrobeat collective out of Brooklyn following in the footsteps of genre godfather Fela Kuti clock six songs in forty-two minutes. Heavy on the horns with a steady supply of polyrhythms and basslines engaging enough that it never gets static. I’ve seen enough collectives overcrowding stages to authenticate their electricity—more instrumentation translates to more excitement, right?—though usually their funk lacks soul and their jazz improv elicits the worst aspects of 70’s fusion. Not so here. Antibalas never overstay a rhythm’s welcome, expand their grooves over time rather than exploit them, and know that a few horns are enough horns. I’ve heard tell the lyrics are political; I always pay heed to the instruments and factor the voices as another one. A MINUS
Bambara Mystic Soul: The Raw Sound of Burkina Faso (Analog Africa): Sixteen tracks culled from ten artists with Amadou Ballake featured most prominently, and even he performs with two different bands. Pitchfork’s Joe Tangari’s review is sufficiently detailed, one of their few useful encyclopedic entries. He calls it dance music. I agree you can shake your hips, but I don’t find its rhythm appealing, not that way, not with its share of so-so funk and dead disco, and not least compared with the compilation’s historic value. Sound quality is expectedly subpar, and Ballake’s overrepresentation could have been serviced by more variety, though he’s clearly the strongest artist present of what was once Upper Volta. Overall, a fascinating and important document of a part of the world seldom known outside its borders. A MINUS