A cerebral mix from our holy and blasphemous past. Psychedelic and remisniscent of morning converstation over coffee that grew slowly into the conscious elements of today's cracked sensibilities. Circular songs of our youth. Here, here-he proclaimed.
There's something uncontrived about Petar
Dundov's music. It goes from chord change to chord change while always
sounding completely natural. Achieving this takes careful consideration,
of course. But this is also due to his particularly upfront, '80s
indebted style of sound design. Jean-Michel Jarre is a major influence,
and like him, Dundov manages to make his collages of harmony very rich,
but not indigestible. In other words, Dundov produces unapologetically
While Ideas from the Pond might first come across as congruent,
in terms of the consistent prominence of synthesizers and their style of
programming, Dundov actually travels diverse terrain here, often within
the same track. "Distant Shores," for example, starts with an arresting
plucking sound that soon has many layers weaving around it. It moves
through various stages, building to a complex climax of dramatic,
clattering drums and lyrical arpeggios, and then whispers out at the
end, like a dream fading away. It's pretty central to his charm that
Dundov can hit that kind of effect and and have it not sound trite.
This description of "Distant Shores," originally released in 2010 and
the only pre-released single on the album, could just as well apply to
the entirety of Ideas from the Pond. The individual tracks are
microcosms of the whole. This could easily become boring over eighty
minutes. But instead, they reinforce each other. The journey—and it does
feel like a journey—is extended, fluently.
Whether you're gripped for the duration, though, largely depends on whether you're the kind of person who's engaged by the substance of what's washing over you. Ideas
is full of detail and tiny motions. The counterpoint to the twinkling
melodies is often linear, like in "Silent Visitor." In other places,
like on "Brownian Motion," the counterpoint feels more vertical. But
what keeps you locked in to Ideas' slow trajectory is Dundov's grasp of emotions. He simply makes you want to stay with the feeling.
Of the producers who emerged during the heady days of the 90s, few
have continued to release great music. In fact, apart from Luke Slater,
Regis and Neil Landstrumm, the passage of time has led to them following
rather than setting trends. There are too many examples of once
distinctive artists going down the big room minimal route to document
here. In other instances, age has led to a ‘mellowing out’ process that
leads to not a deeper sound but in reality bland factory-line fodder.
While Petar Dundov’s latest album is certainly more laid-back than the
storming intensity of his Brother’s Yard releases, he
creativity, ideas or imagination in the process.
Admittedly, the Croatian’s 2010 single
for Music Man, “Distant Shores”, also included here, did edge close to
mainstream Ibiza dance music, but it did so with an irresistible flair
and panache and an understanding of what used to be popular on the White
Island, its pulsing electronic bassline supporting synth solos that
verge on the psychedelic. Although it largely eschews the dance floor,
the rest of Ideas From The Pond resonates with a similar sense
of history. The title track is a perfectly weighted, sun-kissed ambient
affair, its melody swirling gently over lazy mid-tempo beats that were
made for Cafe Del Mar. “Together” provides the missing link between
Leftfield at their most introspective - think the alternate versions of
“Song Of Life” – and Vangelis, as synths swell and ebb majestically
and it’s crying out to soundtrack a movie. Speaking of films, it sounds
like Dundov immersed himself in soundtracks during the recording
process; “Around One” and “Tetra Float” are wonderfully atmospheric
compositions, with spine-tingling keys and spacey melodies realised with
a warm, soft-focus production touch. Unlike many of his peers, Ideas From The Pond shows that Dundov is not treading water and has grown older, wiser and more creative.
Sublime sophomore album from the Croat native. On 'Ideas From the Pond'
he expresses himself through an equally measured blend of classic memes
borrowed from widescreen Kosmische, pulsing Techno and Balkan nEuro
Disco. It's all beautifully put in context on the 1hr 17min continuous
mix, and breaks down to purified trance Techno on 'Silent Visitor';
delicious slow-disco pirouettes on the title track; rolling space Haus
on 'Brownian Interplay; and deeply evocative motorik synth sagas such as
'Together' or 'Tetra Float'. Fans of owt from Jeff Mills to Emeralds or
Harold Grosskopf might have found a new favourite. Recommended!
Fin, Talabot's classic house and modern music mix has both an urban and knowing sensibility that produces dance all over my body. Nevertheless, a subtle play on what is fast becoming the most creative space for the future.
Never tell John Talabot his music's cozy. In a recent interview with Juno Plus,
the Barcelona-based producer expressed confusion over many of the
labels applied to the music that has made him such a presence in
electronic music over the last few years—"tropical" being the most
obvious. He insists that he always thought of his productions as kind of
shadowy. It's an interesting objection because you can hear what he's
saying: There's always been a sly melancholy, a kind of sonic withdrawal
and itchy discomfort, to Talabot's material that belies the shimmer at
Regardless of how you view these timbres though—and, clearly, one man's
beachbum anthem is another's depressive tearbait—Talabot's been
omnipresent in sets, mixes and compilations for about three years now.
Across well-caned favorites like "Sunshine," "Matilda's Dream" and
"Families" on labels like Permanent Vacation, Young Turks and Spain's
Hivern Discs, Talabot's established his own brand of sandy haired
electronica that owes as much to the jumpy Balearic strains of fellow
Spaniards like Delorean and Hamburg microscopic deep house as they do to
the melodic swellings of early to mid-00 heavies like Kompakt and Get
Marked by his keen sense of songcraft, Talabot's tunes are just as good
(if not better) for country day strolls or evening reading than peak
night hedonism. And with his debut album, fIN, finally arriving
on Permanent Vacation, it's obvious from the outset that he's
constructed a fifty-odd minute piece of music as cohesive and
narrative-oriented as some of the best electronic full-lengths of the
last few years. There are stepbacks and detours—the ambient whirl of
"H.O.R.S.E." and the garbled dystopic blur of "Last Land"—that lend
moments of sonic reprieve against the album's heartiest tracks. Fellow
Spaniard and recent Permanent Vacation standout Pional turns up on the
sultry vocal-bent house of "Destiny," with its brief lapses into
bell-laced ambience that almost resemble Pantha du Prince, while "Depak
Ine" opens with brief night calls—birds, frogs, all manner of cries
unseen—before slipping into an eclipse of pitch-shifted vocal blurs and
fuzzy synth blurts (surely one of the songs Talabot had in mind when
referring to the album's blacker hues).
Barcelona house producer John Talabot has a knack for capturing the very
specific kind of bliss associated with dancing on Mediterranean beaches
at the height of summer. A penchant for rising chords means that all
his melodies make you feel like raising your arms and face to the sun.
Talabot also has arguably the greatest sense of build-and-release in dance music
since prime Booka Shade: ƒin is full of incredible tension-releasing
moments, from the extended break in Destiny to the entrance of Missing
You's bouncing bass. The generosity of Talabot's sound can also be
ascribed to the amount of disparate ingredients he puts to use in
service of his aesthetic – particularly the variety of human voices on
display. There are wordless chants and bright, optimistic pop hooks; an
echoing scream is plucked from a horror film and deposited in the middle
of a carnival on Oro y Sangre, while on So Will Be Now, cut-up vocals
coalesce gradually and gorgeously into recognisable language. All of
humanity seems to be here – and it's busy celebrating being alive.
The Catalan producer hails from a sound stable saddled with the early
moniker ‘Balearic’, named for the collaborations conjured up between he
and his Basque country brethren – check out his shimmering remix of
Delorean’s “Sunshine,” and his mate from Madrid, Pional’s many vocals on
Fin. His oozy, woozy take on ambient house evokes the sun sinking below Barcelona’s rooftops, so effortlessly captured in his EP Families - yet save for the song titles, somewhat surprisingly there’s no Spanish on the album.
But for all the deliciousness and delicacy, the record is interlaced
with moments of darkness – something Talabot is determined to cling to.
‘Why am I always tagged as house, or tropical or happy music when I’m
making dark tracks? ’, he said in this interview. ‘I don’t understand’.
Perhaps that’s why opening track “Depak Ine” begins in the way that
it does, with a haunting jungle-like atmosphere where the skittering
hoots and hollers of unseen wild beasts are offset by a pounding
rhythmic drumbeat. This seven minute extravaganza fully immerses the
listener into the record as layer upon layer is gently spliced together,
until all the slivers make up a complex, melodic slice of sound. It’s
an method that’s equally well wielded on album closer “So Will Be Now,”
that cuts samples of Pional’s vocal with a groovy, bouncy bass and tight
Better at layering than any fashion editor, is Talabot. In the same
Red Bull interview, Talabot admits he likes to sample – ‘it’s something
more creative’, and this is exemplified on ”Last Land.” There are sounds
you recognize and yet can’t place – it’ll make you gurn in that
desperation to identify it – rounded off by a sequence that recalls Arabian Nights, all twinkly bells and twisted synths.
Late to the party but mesmerized by the succulent beats and sweet expressions of desire coming out of this truly addictive auditory trip. The Weekend is what I want and what I need, reminding me of the crevices in my past and the anticipatory surprises in a lost room. Living with these beats for over a year and still sounding new and exploratory. Sensational.
I still remember the first time I heard The Weeknd, it may have been the
first public track leaked from them – a chopped and screwed version of
“The Morning,” leaving fans to wonder if Drake had been doing a side
project with a different stage name (internet was going through a
similar phase as Lupe fans when they were trying to figure out if Lu was
part of Japenese Cartoon). The second track I heard from The Weeknd was
What You Want, which put all the “it’s Drake rumors” aside.
Their marketing campaign was so mysterious and left everyone
anticipating the music; Abel’s face barely seen in low quality pictures,
an official site showcasing a pitch black screen with just a logo
present, and a few songs scattered around a vast internet world.
Then 2011 showed up – The year of The Weeknd. In 2011, The Weeknd released three projects: House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of silence.
The last installment of the trilogy was released on December 21st, a
day that had a significant seasonal meaning to Abel. Each project from
the trilogy is unique in it’s own way. Each project from The Weeknd
really reflects the mood of the season it was released in, the
temperature climate you may be experiencing, the time of day, nature,
and environment. Talk about sonically pleasing. All of the projects
sound amazing, regardless of what time of the day, but Thursday and Echoes of Silence hit an insurmountable peak at night. You know that Nostalgia where the past, present, and future intertwine and become one?
On the contrary, the House of Balloons project sounds amazing in the
morning, noon, and day time, though the back half of the album should be
reserved for night time affairs. I still remember when House of Balloons dropped.
I downloaded the album, put it on a blank CD, and walked to my car. I
sat in the parking lot and dozed off to the whole album. I usually catch
artists before they get really big. I pride myself in being that fan
before the fan and really indulging in my own created frenzy before the
music reaches the masses and becomes saturated.
While the previously available versions of House of Balloons, Thursday, and Echoes of Silencealready
felt definitive, a three-hour immersion provides a new way in, assuming
you are willing to take it as a single piece. Which isn't easy: in
spite of Tesfaye's diaphanous voice and the lush production, these are heavy records, with tempos that slow to a codeine drip for five minutes or more. But Trilogy as a whole sets up a narrative that was previously only implied.
House of Balloons is the "fun" part of the story,though that's a relative term. It has the only Weeknd songs you might play at a celebration, and the only point where the illicit behavior feels alluring. On House,
the Weeknd introduce an aesthetic that, over the course of the rest of
the three tapes, gradually evolves into something deeper and less based
in traditional songcraft. It's a continuation of the purple-tinted
R&B and hip-hop hybrid forged by The-Dream and Drake, with eye-of-the-quiet storm assurance of Sade and Aaliyah and industrial and trip-hop touches that range from Nine Inch Nails to Tricky. But the Weeknd show a flair for melody that allows every richly atmospheric song on House to
stand on its own, boasting strong (and sometimes borrowed) hooks that
embrace repetition without feeling manipulative. The cyclical choruses
of "What You Need",
"The Morning", and "High For This" in particular are both immediately
striking and subtly ingratiating, overtures to pop radio that operate
outside of it.
Those borrowed hooks mean that House of Balloons is the part of Trilogy most
affected by the remaster. If you can't catch how the guitars hit a
little harder and the drums have a bit more pop on "High For This",
you'll definitely notice how the sample from Aaliyah's "Rock the Boat" has been wiped from "What You Need". If I had to choose, I prefer the original House of Balloons for its spontaneity, but it's kind of like familiarizing yourself with your partner after they get a new haircut; it's just different for a while, and if you want, you can always go back.
Not a Baltimore prejudice here-a state of mind with the Lower Dens. A hyptnotic croon of everlasting beat tightening groove. Repetitive and addictive like things we like. A smartdrug solution to those who need a a legal addiction. Obviously a sin in the home of heroin. Nootropics is their new sound.
I’ve had the digital promo of Nootropics, the sophomore
album from Baltimore dream-rock band Lower Dens, for a couple of months
now. And according to my iTunes,
I’ve listened to its 10 songs an
average of 106 times. I’ve mentioned this a few times on Stereogum
already, but it almost immediately became my daughter’s favorite album
of all time. My kid just turned three, but putting her to bed is this
massive ordeal; I need to hold her and bounce her and pace back and
forth across her bedroom for something like an hour, until she drifts
off. By the end of it, my back is screaming at me. And her attachment to
this album has become intense and kind of weird; she cries hard if I
try to put on anything else. But here’s a measure of how good this album
is: I haven’t gotten entirely sick of it yet.
That’s mostly because I can see where my kid is coming from. Nootropics is a world-class sleeping aid, and I don’t mean that as a slight. When the band released their debut Twin-Hand Movement
a couple of years ago, hazy drift was a big part of it. They were
mostly a guitar band then, and their sound worked by lazily and
comfortably wrapping all their different guitar lines around each other,
forming these intuitive tapestries of sound. They reminded me a bit of
Luna then; they had that same easy, instinctual interplay, like they’d
been born playing guitar with one another. They hadn’t, of course.
Bandleader Jana Hunter is a former freak-folk artist, and the band had
tons of interpersonal problems and lineup shifts after the album came
out. But that calm, familiar sense of drift is still all over Nootropics; it’s just been pushed in some different directions.
Nootropics are drugs that enhance cognitive functions such as concentration, memory, and attention span. According to Lower Dens,
their album title refers to the band’s “interest in transhumanism–the
use of technology to extend human capabilities.” Sure, drugs have been
inexorably tied to the inspiration, enjoyment, or the end of music for
decades, but smart pills? That’s a new one. In any case, for Baltimore’s
Lower Dens, it fits.
Kraftwerk pushed music technology to drive the point home of every
album’s theme, such as the monotonous feeling to the experience of
driving on the Autobahn’s namesake, or that of man as a machine of production, stipped of any personality or humanity on Man-Machine. Similarly, Lower Dens are using their expanded grandness in scope to create a specific atmosphere for Nootropics.
Take “Lamb” and “Proagation”, for example. Here Lower Dens utilize
motorik beats, droning guitar noise, and the barely-there whispers of
Jana Hunter to build a mood of fearful claustrophobia. Lead single
“Brains” is surprisingly uptempo, but its motorik beat just raises the
urgency to overwhelming levels. That panicked feeling when uncertainty
takes control and time distorts? It’s captured in musical form in the
beast that is “Brains”.
These Krautrock stylings are fully unleashed on 12 minute closer “In the End Is the Beginning”, and the panicked sensation of Nootropics gives
way to catharsis as the surrealism intensifies to the point at which
change is inevitable. If neighbors and former tour mates Beach House are
dream pop, then with Nootropics, Lower Dens are nightmare pop.
Whirring forward—at times slick with the velvety magnetism of
psychedelic riffs, other times peppered with the oddly attractive
hiccups of a vintage movie reel—Nootropics, the latest record
from Baltimore quintet Lower Dens, connects layered loops and trippy
chants with catchy rock ’n’ roll arrangements, delivering a pure punch
of sonic bliss.
Jana Hunter, the freak folk-inclined singer/songwriter who serves as
the outfit’s frontwoman, has ditched the majority of the foggy reverb
and bulky guitar riffs from the band’s 2010 release, Twin Hand Movement,
in favor of a droning progression that mirrors a single, repetitious
track. Playing into Hunter’s uncanny ability to craft an emotion-dense
landscape, a majority of the record’s offerings inspire a deeply rooted
reaction within the listener—stirring up feelings of joy and
despair—while tickling the nostalgic corners of the brain.
Adopting a mysterious, otherworldly appeal, Nootropics opens
with the meandering “Alphabet Song,” where hypnotic waves of keys frame
Hunter’s off-kilter vocals, before giving way to a group-led, eerie
chant. Appealing to an opposite realm of trippy tenacity, the
instrumental “Stem” is a euphoric collection of surf-reminiscent guitar
lines and chiming keys—evoking a jubilant connection to the track’s
childlike sense of celebration.
“Candy” changes the pace as a darker offering, with Hunter demanding,
“Back it up, nobody wants you ‘round here. What are you waiting for?”
In stark contrast to previous tracks, a dangerous and aggressive
arrangement of instrumentals forcefully backs disturbed vocals before
coming to an uncomfortable, screeching halt.
You grew up in Texas, now live in Baltimore, and wrote much of
the new record while on the road. Does location inform your music? I’ve
always thought of Texas as being very open territory, especially
because I grew up in a smaller town that empties at night. There’s
literally a lot of empty space. Coming to the Northeast in general, but
particularly Baltimore, I felt for the first time a sense of urgency in
making things. It’s changed not only the level of dedication or the
amount of time I put into music, but the process and the outcome have
become, overall, more intense.
What was your perception of what was happening musically in Texas growing up? When
I was young, I had this understanding that most of Texas was
blues-rock, and wanted to get away from it as fast as possible. After
living in Houston for a while, I think of Texas as a good place for
particular strains of psychedelic music and experimental music, even
free jazz. I don’t think it will necessarily become widely known for
that, but Houston was a really great place for me to be as a 19- and
You started out working alone, writing and recording lo-fi in your bedroom. Is it a struggle to now work with a band? I
find the more that I acquiesce to there being other people — people who
have just as much to say and can say it just as well — that it gets
easier and the music that I play becomes more interesting. I’ve heard my
own voice, so to speak, for so many years now that it’s just
interesting to me to work with a lot of other people’s ideas and try to
incorporate them. A lot of times I’m more interested in process than
outcome, and this process is a lot more interesting than sitting alone
in a room and trying to drag out the most confessional music I can.
What do you think is the secret to being a good “front man”? I’m
still trying to figure that out. As far as I can tell, the secret is to
give the audience as much of yourself as possible. It seems to involve
making an exaggeration of yourself, to kind of see how much you can pull
your own puppet strings. But I’m not naturally given to theatricality,
so it’s something I’m trying to figure out from an intellectual
perspective. It doesn’t really work very well that way. Any success I
have with it, I sort of stumble into.
Introspective and angular, Sanchez's compositions and their deployment on Wires & Moss with her capable squadron of musicians take us to novel and surprising places. This high wire set manages to be an emotional car chase where you find yourself in the rearview mirror. Good stuff.
Perceptive composer and cunning improviser, educator/keyboardist
Angelica Sanchez has risen to the A-list of modern stylists and
innovators. As history dictates, she largely summons the
crème-de-la-crème of like-minded artists for her solo endeavors. Indeed,
Sanchez's burgeoning discography for Clean-Feed records bears witness
to her resourceful persona. On Wires & Moss, she traverses a route initiated upon evocative moods and jarring tone poems.
"Soaring Piasa" is an 11-minute opus designed with guitarist Marc Ducret's angular and creaky extended notes that help establish an unwieldy and slightly ominous introduction. As saxophonist Tony Malaby
fills in the gaps along with Sanchez's nimble piano voicings. Hence, an
unnerving calm underscores the storyline. But they subsequently raise
the pitch, due to the leader's fractured jazz phrasings and subtle
reverse-engineering processes, instilling a notion that many unanswered
It's an open-ended piece that morphs into a
structured theme, centered on a simple and congenial melody line, where
Malaby elevates the pitch via his plaintive cries during the finale.
Sanchez and associates inject quite a few teasers into this multifaceted
work. The ensemble decrees a translucent median, toggling between
artistic risk-taking and modern mainstream while tossing several riotous
detours into the grand schema
The album is made up of six pieces which work on the development of
melody and freedom. It's a concept that is gradually evolving throughout
the modern jazz world. Structured melodies give way to open ended
improvisations, sometimes wild and improvised, and others based on
rhythms or melodic fragments used elsewhere. What gives these records,
this one included, a very exciting side to them is the ability to
interpret chord progressions using modern vocabulary. Lessons learnt
from Albert Ayler, Braxton or Derek Bailey are now the norms, moving the
art post-bop orientated improvisation into the realms of jazz for
conservatory musicians. On this album tracks such as the fine opening 'Loomed'
let the musicians probe areas that aren't necessarily suggested in the
initial tune before working in a more melodic area that although
semi-written inspires the musicians to find alternative vocabulary. 'Feathered Light'
lets Tony Malaby weave intricate soprano lines that are neither tonal
nor atonal. However before Malaby solos Angelic Sanchez opens up the
material a little in the same way that Keith Jarrett did back in his
classic Impulse years band of Paul Motian, Dewey Redman and Charlie
Haden. In fact the music probably owes more to that era (style) than one
would maybe think.
'Soaring Piasa' finds Tony Malaby and Marc Ducret trading ideas
before Angelica Sanchez gives the rhythm section some sort of harmony to
work with. Drew Gress and Tom Rainey accompany her like a modern Bill
Evans trio before the sax of Tony Malaby joins them by which time it's
clear that the melody is being developed and prepared to lead the group
towards the end of the piece. It's a very graceful and inventive piece
that combines open soloing and classic melodic writing. the excellent 'Wire and Moss' which features Marc Ducret also works a little on the same idea. A sort of A-B-A structure with 'B' being the melody. 'Dore'
has a dense melody full of rhythmic surprises. Gradually it lets the
musicians find their own way, who then develop a more 'open' approach to
the improvisation. 'Bushida' the final track is given over to
Drew Gress who opens up the tune with a wonderful unaccompanied bass
intro. The piece then moves gradually away into a dark melody that is
punctuated by Tom Rainy's (almost rock) drumming which accompanies Marc
Ducret rough solo and Tony Malaby's poly-harmonic(**) lines.
the risk of getting too pedantic right off the bat, why do you play
Sanchez: That's an interesting question... I
think I came about it totally by chance when I was a kid. I
played the clarinet first, and my brother took piano lessons. So
I wanted to take piano lessons.
Tafuri: Older or younger?
Sanchez: He's my older
brother, and I wanted to be like him. So
we took piano lessons, and I was miserable. I
was terrible at it, so I stopped taking piano when I was
around thirteen. Then, when I got into high school, a local jazz band
and played for us. I was
a freshman in high school, and I was completely blown away. I
had sort of started to get interested in blues music, then
and played for us, and I was knocked out.
Tafuri: What kind of stuff did they play?
Sanchez: They played a blues, and they played a standard -- stuff that
I had never really heard, because I was pretty green. I had just never heard people play music like that.
Tafuri: What was music for you before then?
Sanchez: I liked Elton John. I
liked Boy George. I actually
really liked country music.
Sanchez: Yeah, I was really into country music. I liked fusion [jazz].
Tafuri: This is in Phoenix? And
they had country music on the air there?
Sanchez: Oh, sure. My
parents were like, "You like country music?" I
liked lots of pop music back then. But
then there was the Marian McPartland show that was the first real way
I heard piano. I was just
amazed that she had on all these piano players, and that's sort of
how I got introduced to playing the piano. It
was a great show. I mean,
it was the only thing they had on the radio that was hip back then,
because they didn't have a jazz station back when I was growing up.
Tafuri: There is a jazz station now.
Sanchez: There is now, but, back when I was growing up, it was
like KJAZ was sort of "pseudo-fusiony" kind of thing.
Tafuri: It still is KJAZ.
Sanchez: Yeah, but now they play Dexter Gordon, and back then they
Tafuri: Wow! Well, when
was this? This was the
An inspirational and successful acoustic blend of African and European sounds emphasizes the power of raw and delicate cultural arrangements by sensitive artists. Zita Swoon Group may be classified as "World Music" but it is much more. Let's hope this is a path other international musicians will take.
The collaborative spirit here is openly and explicitly addressed, as
many of the songs deal with issues of social relevance such as
relationships between rulers and people, and labor relations. It would
be far too easy to suggest that these issues are relevant only in the
impoverished nations of Africa, and that a group of white musicians is
using their good fortune to shine a light on the plight of the “dark
continent”. This is most definitely not the case, as the group makes it
very clear that the such issues know no racial divide and are in fact
universally relatable regardless of nation or creed. It is this
acknowledgment of white struggle that truly enriches the collaboration
and thankfully destroys any pretensions of this simply being another
exposition of the disgusting “white savior complex”, where good
intentions go beyond failing to do any real good and in fact only help
to reinforce negative cultural stereotypes about the so-called “third
world”, and the very people who are trying to help are kept at arm’s
length (remember Live Aid?). And it is appropriate that a group from
Belgium undertook such a task, as Belgium, much like the majority of
Africa, was long subject to the predilections of larger European powers
before it’s independence.
Due to the fact that the band has such a vast array of influences
(undoubtedly coming from the disparate makeup of its members and it’s
conscious approach of seeking out new and dynamic methods of composing
and playing) there is a certain amount of difficulty in pinning down
what exactly their “sound” is. Instead of being able to effectively nail
down a small number of specific musical ideas that define them, they
seem content with applying a broader pallet to a similarly broad
spectrum of musical forms and structures, all with the same
orchestration that includes things like the banjo and the pump organ.
It’s a set of instruments that appears bizarre on paper but ultimately
enriches the material.
Formed in the early 90′s under the name Moondog Jr., Zita Swoon
became one of Belgium’s most emblematic bands. Lead member Stef Kamil
Carlens, who also co-founded dEUS with Tom Barman, travelled to Burkina
Farso in 2010 where he met vocalist Awa Démé and balafon (xylophone)
player Mamadou Diabaté Kibié. Zita Swoon Group and the album Wait For Me is the fruit of this encounter.
According to the press release, most of
the album’s tracks “are based around dialogues: the content of Awa
Démé’s lyrics (sung in Dioula, a Manding language) is echoed and
transposed in Stef Kamil’s English-language lines, which reflect the
griots’ preoccupations with traditional wisdom, interpersonal
relationships, social codes and cultural traditions, but also with very
current issues: social and political problems, the depletion of the
country’s natural resources, endemic poverty which drives many people to
emigrate in search of a better life etc.”.
The Belgium-based world-beat group, Zita Swoon, is a cosmopolitan band
representing a host of musical styles that cross the wide, Saharan
expanse of North Africa and the Western European region of France,
Belgium, and England. The engaging rhythms are showcased on a number of
instruments, including drums, balafon, guitar, horns, various folk
instruments. The wide-ranging vocals and incredible repertoire of Awa
Deme, Mamadou Diabate Kibie, and the Paul Simon/Bob Dylan
singing-leadership of Stef Kamil Carlens, produces a solid recording of
memorable songs. The balafon and horns represent a West African and
Ethiopian sound on the same album. The world music created by Zita Swoon
Group is a form of fusion, but it almost works too good to be called
fusion. Instead, the music is just great--no matter what you call it.