Friday, 28 February 2014

Music - Part 176 - Dubblestandart



Dubblestandart - In Dub (Echo Beach)
CD/DL
Out Now


Austrian Dub band, Dubblestandart release their fourteenth studio album. 

When I met my wife, a fan of Ska, I soon expressed my fondness of Dub.  She asked me to describe its sound and aside from telling her it was lots of echoes and bass, I struggled.  To me, Dub is a feeling, a place you go to, something immeasurable to which I constantly drift away and relax.  It is like no other musical genre.

Formed in 1988 by Paul Zasky, Dubblestandart are renowned for their self-named brand of 21st Century Dub popularised in their live performances in their own right and as backing to the likes of Lee 'Scratch' Perry and Ari Up.  They have also worked in the studio with Sly & Robbie, Dub Syndicate and Mark Stewart so they know their stuff!

In Dub contains fifteen tracks featuring artists as ranging from Marcia Griffiths to David Lynch and with six dub remixes from the legend that is Adrian Sherwood.  It's an album where vocals are used sparingly, Griffiths and Ari for instance appear almost as soundbytes in near instrumental pieces and the music is often minimised to singles instruments and effects.

Stand out track by far is the previously unreleased version of Max Romeo's Chase The Devil.  Probably most popular for its sampling in Out Of Space by The Prodigy, Lee Perry provides vocals in a way that only he can do.  He also features on Chrome Optimism alongside David Lynch and a sample of Jean Michel Jarre's Oxygene Part 4 telling us that 'Hell is very low and Heaven is very high'.  You've got to love him.


There is also some very clever track sequencing from the wonderful skank of Slow Motion to the delicate piano in Logics Of Liberation.  It's not all chilled dub either, dance orientated tracks like Golden Life and I'm A Warrior serve to keep the album surprising and fresh throughout.

Limited to just 999 copies, it's an album for every dub fan to savour and one for newbies to the musical style to acquaint themselves to new songs that the Jamaican pioneers would approve of.

9/10

Adrian Sherwood on hiapop Blog


Published on Louder Than War 01/03/14 - here








Thursday, 27 February 2014

Music - Part 175 - Bernaccia



Bernaccia – Cinema EP
CD/DL
Out Now


Neo-psychedelic blues rock band Bernaccia release their new EP.  

It’s always enjoyable when someone dares to come along with something different or in a style of their own. Bernaccia have done just that with their superb new EP, three tracks of immeasurable quality.

Sometimes sounding like a bastard mix of The Doors, Echo & The Bunnymen and Hipsway with equal amounts of blues and roots, they swagger through this mini collection like a group that have been around for donkeys years knowing exactly what to do and where to do it.

Opening track Armada takes you be surprise.  Straight into a bluesy swing with gripping guitars and vocals that are raw and polished.  With a catchy guitar hook seeing out the track, it’s almost Burundi beat carries on into the ‘lead’ track Circuit Ryder with its startlingly aggressive chorus line it has enough twang and oomph to satisfy the most critical of onlookers.


The strongpoint of Bernaccia seems to be their ability to launch straight into a track with no messing around, grabbing your attention from the off.  EP closer and highlight No Home For The Buffalo could be the soundtrack to a twenty-first century Western movie.  Again superb guitar and stomping bass meet rolling drums and almost Kasabian vocals complete with Cherokee chants and shouts.

There’s a sound to Bernaccia that you may not have heard before and it’s exciting.  The EP promises to be the first of three in a single-a-month order which is nothing short of tantalising.

Early contender for single of the year and a band to watch out for.

9/10

Links
Bernaccia on Twitter


Published on Louder Than War 02/03/14 - here





Music - Part 174 - Nat Lyon



Nat Lyon – Small Victory On A Fallow Field
DL/CD
28 February 2014

Connecticut based, punk/folk artist Nat Lyon releases his new album.  

Despite having second thoughts about being termed a DIY artist, Nat Lyon has followed up last year’s New England Paradigm Shift album with another only six months later, that sees the evolution of his sound taken one step further.  If the tracks on Small Victory On A Fallow Field are to be applauded then the 100 home-made hand-painted cd covers that accompany it deserve an encore.

Such was Nat’s creative flow at the time of his last album that he carried on writing straight through for this new collection.  There’s an altogether mellower feel to his new stuff.  The slightly off-key moments are still present, as are the unplanned sounds of people in his kitchen or dogs barking, and it is these anomalies that form many of the delights of the album.  It’s overflowing in passion and brutal honesty.

Lyrically, Small Victory carries on where New England left off.  Based on true observations and an overactive mind, they are again compelling.  Often not rhyming, often clumsy, they are perfect in their imperfections.

Nat has involved several partners from America, Germany and Britain to enhance the sound to good effect.  CH, the tale of the suicidal school teacher, is a dark as Nat gets – it’s simple and slightly scary with its echoed dubbed out finale and creaking floorboards.  He sees this album as one of his “most challenging creative pieces” and it’s difficult not to agree. 

Landseer Frequency is avant garde ambience with spoken voices added over a gripping backing simpleness before exploding into album highlight CHARLIE! which harks back to Nat’s punk roots with two minutes of big noise and random vocals.


There’s a more settled approach to Small Victory.  Despite it’s often ad-hoc inclusions it continues to surprise.  Part acoustic, part electronic and much sampled, its tales and inherent characters instil intrigue and mystery. Splitting the album title into tracks A Small Victory and its follow on On A Fallow Field gives an inkling to Nat’s thought process.  The former a sleepy acoustic instrumental, the later a full-on pop ramble.

Coming a long way since his last album Nat is already working on his next.  An artist clearly overflowing with ideas and entertaining ones at that.  Closing with the hypnotic Western Fiction and the sound byte “stars are coming out” the album is fifteen tracks of well-constructed songs which are difficult to slot into any genre.  A clever artist and an incredibly entertaining album.

8.5/10

A remix version of the album entitled This Is Not The Map will be released on 28 February and will be available as a free download here.




Links
New England Paradigm Shift review


Published on Louder Than War 10/03/14 - here








Wednesday, 26 February 2014

They Wear It Well! - Helen McCookerybook


Ever wondered what material Helen McCookerybook's living room table is made of?  No, me neither, but if you ever do then I'd say it's a light oak or pine affair.

Helen was as obliging as ever when asked if she would sport a hiapop badge.  Whether she wears it on the high street or whether it's consigned to the table only she can testify.

The fact that it found it's way there is good enough for me!


Links
An interview with Helen McCookerybook



Tuesday, 25 February 2014

Music - Part 177 - Rolo McGinty Top 10 Albums



During my recent interview with Rolo McGinty of The Woodentops, I asked him his favourite Top 10 albums.  His selection was interesting....




What are your favourite Top 10 albums of all time?
Hard one that, eek!  
Here’s some.  
A rough list.

Suicide – Suicide
Suicide – The Second Album (The First Rehearsal Tapes)
Awesome ahead of timeness.



James Brown - In the Jungle Groove 
The body rocking master.


Miles Davis - Sketches Of Spain
Time stands still.


John Martyn - Solid Air
His voice and guitar stroke the brain!


Soul To Soul (Music From The Original Soundtrack)
Absolutely firing soul music.


Iggy Pop - The idiot    
The guy is the meaning of Rock And Roll.


Grace Jones – Nightclubbing
Science fiction reggae of the highest order.


Lil’ Louis And The World - Journey with The Lonely
Club floor Perfection.


Kraftwerk - Man Machine   
Even now they are amazing live as I recently witnessed.




Published on Louder Than War 02/03/14 - here






Music - Part 173 - Gifted Kings




Gifted Kings – Lose What Makes You
CD
Out Now


Glaswegian rockers Gifted Kings release their debut album.  

From the outset, the signs are good for Lose What Makes You.  Gifted Kings employ the production and mixing services of the folks partly responsible for releases by Depeche Mode, Springsteen and U2 and the album artwork is clean and eye-catching.  Recorded at the same studio as Bohemian Rhapsody and What’s The Story Morning Glory it’s easy to be slightly impressed before the album even starts.  Sadly, in reality it’s an album that doesn’t really live up to expectation and could easily fade away from whence it came without a trace.

It’s difficult to pinpoint one thing that lets the album down as there are several minor setbacks which could really have been rectified with time.  The songs are good, but do lack strong choruses, seeming to go for the ‘meat and no substance’ approach.  Tracks are full of strong guitars and percussion but don’t really seem to go anywhere.  The vocals from Derek Murray (half of one of the two sets of brothers making up the band) are too far back in the mix making them sound weak and sometimes not suited to the tracks – whether that is down to them not being strong enough full stop or just poorly mixed is difficult to tell.

The Last Time has hints of The Manic Street Preachers which I’m not sure is a good thing.  The vocals are mellow and the instrumentation is accomplished, but the ‘Wow Factor’ seems amiss.  Last Trace Of The Sun has a good feel but again, fails to lift itself anywhere.  There’s no doubt that Gifted Kings have something here but you can’t help feeling that there’s just a little missing.



First single lifted from the album, Dead End Road is probably the finest track on board.  It has balls and is head and shoulders above everything else. It gave the group a following in Belarus where they seem to be picking up a lot of support which is great, and maybe their future lies in that direction, but for the UK their sound may be slightly dated.  Think of Ireland’s Silent Running who had a stab at stardom in the 80s and you won’t go far wrong. 

There’s undoubtedly a market for their sound but the album seems a little rushed (as does their website, which is live but clearly not yet finished) and maybe could have done with a while longer to finalise.

In essence, they’re obviously a talented enough bunch of lads, but maybe their time has been and gone before they even knew it.

7/10


Links
Gifted Kings website
Gifted Kings on Twitter


Published on Louder Than War 27/02/14 - here






Music - Part 172 - The Woodentops



The Woodentops – Granular Tales (Cherry Red Records)
CD/DL
Out Now


Original Indie rockers, The Woodentops, release their first album for twenty-five years.  

If you’re unfamiliar with The Woodentops, then Granular Tales could sound like a Best Of collection and this review could well end here.  Twelve songs that you think you recognise but have never actually heard before is something that will be rectified soon as you play this album again and again.

I first became aware of The Woodentops in the mid-eighties with their landmark Giant album.  They were the original Indie band, combining Afro-beat with a Balearic sound which was to become synonymous with them, and combining with electronica and funk.  Their remixes probably introduced me to the delights of dub.  Then to me, they disappeared.

The suggestion of a new Woodentops album was certainly intriguing and filled me with more excitement than I would have imagined.  The gruff, butch whisper of lead singer Rolo McGinty would again grace my ear-drums and those superb melodies would again infect my mind.  Speaking to me recently, Rolo explained that they needed to ‘recharge their batteries’.  Recharge they certainly have, because Granular Tales is a triumph from the beautiful cover artwork to the clean, precise, well-written tunes.

A Little More Time is as unlikely album opener as you may get.  It’s low-key, it’s a basic chorus and it rhymes ‘time’ with ‘wine’.  It’s wonderful.  The aforementioned McGinty whisper is perfect and the backing track is layered and sumptuous glistening like a new diamond.

There’s an energy to their music which is often hidden and also often allowed to break through with second track, A Pact, proving the point.  Starting with the percussive style which made them so unique soon breaking into racing drums and sparkling guitars the infectious chant of a chorus.

Lead single, Third Floor Rooftop High should be etched on everyone’s brain and deserves to be one of those instantly recognisable tunes that graces your radio everyone you switch it on – cue Radio 6!  It explodes into a frenetic steam-train of a track that bounces and thunders along from start to end.  This is how to write pop, Kids.




The strings to The Woodentops’ bow would seem endless with a distinct disco funk element to Stay Out Of The Way, and time to nod in the direction of Kraftwerk on the backing to Every Step Of The Way.  Blues makes an appearance on Off To War.

There’s a lovely reggae beat to Conversations which seems to blend with a Spanish sounding guitar and an almost musical box melody before rockier guitars enter the mix.  Lovely keyboards compliment.
More incisive pop on What Was Taken I Don’t Want Back as a repetitive hook wheedles its way between your ears.  Because Of You closes the album with a cracking bass and crying guitars.

Granular Tales isn’t just another album by an 80s group wanting another taste of the action, it’s an album from a group that were critically acclaimed but never reached the commercial heights that they should have done.  It’s an album that follows the natural progression of one of Britain’s finest acts.  It’s an album by a group on the top of their game and one that they can be very proud of.

9.5/10

Links
The Woodentops website
The Woodentops on Twitter
Rolo McGinty on Twitter

Published on Louder Than War 20/02/14 - here







Sounds Familiar? - Puressence v Amanda Ghost



Apparently, plagiarism is the ultimate form of tribute, but is that always the case?  Isn't it also a little naughty?

Sometimes you hear a song that you think you've heard before but you haven't.  You notice that little bits, far too many for coincidence, sound familiar.

Here's a little taster for you.  Manchester's rather brilliant Puressence released the wonderful This Feeling in 1998, and the equally marvellous Amanda Ghost unleashed Idol in 2000.

Sound familiar?












Monday, 24 February 2014

Music - Part 171 - La Chiva Gantiva


La  Chiva Gantiva – Vivo (Crammed Discs)
CD/DL
Out Now


La Chiva Gantiva release their second album described as a mix of Afro-Colombian, rock and funk.  

I like a bit of Afrobeat.  I find it an incredibly underrated musical genre, full of life and passion that you rarely seem to get in any other musical source.  What is quite astonishing is its influence on other types of music right down to mainstream stuff pumping out on your radio on an hourly basis.  What is particularly intriguing is when it appears on albums like the new one by La Chiva Gantiva.

Originally three Columbians based in Brussels, they now have members from Belgium, France and Vietnam completing the line-up and the end result is something rather special.  I’ve rarely heard such an explosive album since the release of the amazing Fly On It by The Apples where carnival punk meets funk meets Latin meets rock, etc..etc..etc..

Frenetic percussion blends with traditional Caribbean instruments and vocals which somehow manage to keep from tangling themselves together.  Influences from Fela Kuti to Red Hot Chili Peppers, from James Brown to Rage Against The Machine are all too evident.  It’s a bewildering prospect but one that really works.

Title track Vivo gives you a taste of what’s on offer.  Less than three minutes long but packed with power and passion and some quite amazing instrumentation.


French spoken track Pigeon has some ripping guitars and lyrically tries to break down European stereotypes between themselves and their Latino counterparts.  Funky party time with El Pollo (avian obsessed?!) where a heavily percussive track with added saxophone and clarinet tells of a man always complaining but never changing.

Aside from some cracking rhythms, there are also clearly some well worked lyrics here, albeit the majority are in Spanish, but the whole feel of the album is quite superb.  Not only a feel good album but also one of twelve brilliant tracks just bursting out waiting to be heard.

9/10

Links


Published on Louder Than War 22/02/14 - here




Friday, 21 February 2014

Music - Part 170 - An Interview With Rolo McGinty



Twenty-five years after their last studio album, alternative/indie rockers The Woodentops return with a new collection of original material.  I was recently given the chance to pop a few questions to front-man Rolo McGinty and took up the challenge!

How’s the world of Rolo McGinty?
Neat for now thanks.  A good balance between work and play and people whose company I enjoy.

Granular Tales is the first Woodentops studio album for 25 years.  Why the wait?
We really needed to recharge the batteries. Live some life away from it all. I needed new life experience to write about as I can only sing what is real to me and I’d emptied the bag. My voice was worn and my hands were really painful. We never split up actually, just dissipated and kept in touch. I’m a blinkered creature so I continued to make music non stop, the other members did other things. It took that long to fall back in to a rehearsal room together. You have to really want to do it or an audience will feel your dismal! So it being fun again we decided to make a record. In a nutshell that’s why.

How does it stand from a personal perspective?
I’m only just becoming able to sit back from it and forget the edits, so to speak. To me it’s close to an album we perhaps would have made before Giant. Before the big pop production thing kicked in. We recorded something that sounds exactly as we sound. Like around our John Leckie period, all musicians in headphones recording, concentrating and live. We’ve tried many things in the past but this one is organic hands on Etsy style!  Its session player free, Just friends in there so actually for me it has the joie de vivre and I hope that people feel that somehow. There was definitely some magic flying around. We had some great lucky locations to work in.

I have happy memories of Giant – what are yours?
Mainly happy ones. I watched as the chaotic group of musicians played better than ever before. Each musician received solo scrutiny, with much attention to sound and performance, a really intense production. I did have some to arguments with the producer actually but that’s normal I guess if you already know what you want. I like a lot of what he did including some moments of genius. I had never seen engineering like John Gallens work, incredible to watch in action. The rough mixes were phenomenal but the actual final ones were a bit clean for me personally. I wonder how it would have been if we’d finished “Why Why Why”, which nearly made that album. Linn drum was used and the final drums were one of the last things to go down. The lingering image for me is Benny recording his drum kit  bit by bit, I enjoyed that so much. Echo units were used to sample and move sound and the brand new Emulator arrived so there was plenty of gear porn going down. Also I remember enjoying every second of my days doing the vocals. So yes a super happy memory cluster is that session.


Tell me about Lee ‘Scratch’ Perry.  Does he give insanity a run for its money?
Lee is like Jamaican Monty Python. He’s really clever and funny. People don’t understand him think he’s menacing but I remember him being fairly genteel and a lot of fun. A shame we could never finish off and release what we did together. We all got drunk as we worked through the evening. Lee Perry stayed with us from lunchtime till 2am. What a day. Rubbed his spells all over the gear and really knew his way around that SSl desk, he’s a very quick thinker and fast mover. So for me, not insane just eccentric.

How much do you resent Rough Trade trying to steer you away from the Balearic scene?
Pain has gone. Music was changing and many of the people in music biz took a while to come round. I’ve always said that with a few exceptions, most of those guys went to bed at 11. That’s when we went out!

You’ve said recently that someone exciting has remixed one of the new tracks.  Any clues?
Bah! Aw Suck

The recent remixes you did for the Feral Five single ‘Skin’, had The Woodentops sound stamped all over them.  Do you see remixing as an extension of the group?
Do you think? I guess I have a flavour!  Remixing has always been an extension of the group yes and long may it continue.


Facebook or Twitter?
More Facebook for me. I have negative feelings about both but enjoy them anyway.

The new album sees you recording all the songs live with antique microphones.  Was there a particular sound you were hoping for and did you achieve it?
Ah, we were trying to find a way of making our music unclassifiable by not using standard modern sounds and so making it hard to pinpoint what decade it is from. Playing games with time. Yes I think we achieved it.

What music excites you nowadays?
I‘m inundated. I’m a YouTube archive hoe and a radio buff and a DJ lover and I adore a good live performance. Across the spectrum music is doing it for me.  Electronic, human, rocking, subdued, transportational, funking, skilled or stupid, I love it. I like Brazilian drum battles. Last weeks discovery was Jacques Brel singing “Ces Gens la”, check that drama, the piano, the time signature. Awesome and nuts. Derrick May killed me the other day with his set. There’s a good Sunday night jazz scene at my local, lots of young players many of whom are really good. I’m a bit house music all night long and still go fuck yeah at a Doc Scott or a Klute production and James Brown at his peak on YouTube is still better than anyone or anything. Some of my friends bands are really impressive, Pest for example, I’m in a very musically active part of London. I have neighbours that pump out a kind of groovy relaxed afrohouse. They are sampling and making their own. It’s good. The must have Maschine or something up there. I like to sit in the garden and listen. They don’t over do it. I grow my own so when I’m out there on a dig….good soundtrack! I bought the new live Fink album straight away on hearing it in the shop. I hadn’t heard of him before.  I even like ‘animals’ ha-ha. Some hits deserve it. Cheesy but somehow good that one. There is the odd cut in the charts that I quite like. I listen to BBC6, Radio 1 , Kool FM, Rinse FM sometimes Resonance FM. I am free from having to listen to Granular Tales over and over!


I’m coming for a meal, what are you making?
I make a mean Spanish omelette. I’m really into experimenting with those, don’t take my eyes off them till done. I also like Mediterranean dishes, fish dishes, tofu dishes, hybrid Asian dishes. I like to cook if I’m in the mood to. I don’t cook meat and bird. I was brought up in a seafood town but I’m cutting back and will stop on the fish. Perhaps you’d better come round before I do.

In the mid 80s you had good successes in the Indie Chart and the Ibiza club scene, was this what you aspired to or did you crave World domination?
I think acceptance was more what we were after. If we felt good playing it, we wanted to share the love. We let our Manager do the worrying about World domination.

Pluto or Dogs Deluxe?
I’d have to say Pluto but Dogs Deluxe went from breakbeat Drum ‘n’ Bass music to a new thing which was making music for multimedia like TV and film and led to a job as a sort of mad lab think tank, making all kinds of out there music that you couldn’t for a record label and getting paid for it. 



Any chance of you venturing North with some live dates.  I’m thinking the Manchester and/or Lancashire areas.  (Asking for a friend *coughs*)
Our agent is looking at Manchester and Leeds bookings, hope they come off!

Skip McDonald is quite a talent as Little Axe and played live with you in 1992.  Do you still have contact?
Skip, oh well I have so many words for that cat. He’s adorable and his timing is so spot on. A couple of the sessions I did with him are my all-time faves. I saw him recently play in Camden actually. Said ‘Hiya!’ afterwards of course. Skip brought Bim Sherman into the studio once. Bim was so sweet and laid back. He did some backing vocals on the original ‘Because Of You’ recording.   The three of us in the headphones, tracking up. Bliss! Actually my biggest indulgence is a double album with Skip. It was really good, it never as a whole saw the light of day and I was in debt for years after it. I threw all my money at it.  Just one of those things you do. I will never forget Skip’s solo on the second encore of a show in Barcelona 1992. It was one long unexpected glorious note the whole way through the middle of “ You Could Be Happy”. The perfect note, we all went to a heaven together.

Are there any Liverpudlian musicians that weren’t in The Wild Swans?!
Ha-ha probably. Place is teeming with players I cant believe they’ve all been through the filter!


Granular Tales is quite a comeback with great songs and great melodies.  What are your hopes and expectations?
Thanks for saying that. I’d like it to help us to play a lot more. That’s what we need to do, under the bonnet tightening stuff.  I have more new ideas and songs so I hope it paves the way for all that. I of course hope that people like it, knowing it’s not like anything else on the market. It’s not associated with any new fashion or new drug movement, so we are on our own.

What does 2014 hold?

A few concerts have just come in with more to confirm, so it should be a Woodentops centric time and as last year was about this year, I hope all that effort is worth it.



I'd like to thank Matt at Cherry Red Records for his co-operation in setting up this article, and to Rolo for being an all-round good egg.



Published on Louder Than War 13/02/14  - here





Music - Part 169 - Perc





Perc – The Power And The Glory (Perc Trax)
17 February 2014
LP/CD/DL


DJ and forward thinking techno producer, Perc releases his second long player.  

With his debut album, Wicker And Steel, Perc (Ali Wells) crossed over into new and interesting areas for techno.  Last years reworking of Einsturzende Neubauten on the Stahldub EP saw him firmly establish himself as a true original.

New album The Power And The Glory is no exception, showing the Wells is also a true visionary and very unafraid to try something different.  So different in fact, that on first listen the album really just sound like a mix-match of sounds and beats and general fannying about in the studio.  It’s on subsequent listens that it hits home and the true skill and cleverness shine through.

As you’d expect from a techno producer, there are some great rhythm tracks here.
Galloper throbs and stomps along with additional cries and sampled sounds of crashing and broken glass – almost Leftfield meets Chemical Brothers, but not quite.
  
There are also worthy stabs at experimentation which gives the album the appealing edge over its contempories – album opener Horse Gum is proof with a lonely, low-key soundscape of almost horror movie proportions. 

Dumpster flies into life right from the opening beats with its funk-punk riffs and post-house basslines. Nik Colk of Factory Floor adds vocals to the almost terrifying Speek, whilst Rotting Sound and single Take Your Body Off feature the voice of Dan Chandler from Dethscalator in a jolting buzz with piercing vocals which sees Perc revisit classic techno with his own personal twist.



David & George is another cracking bounce-along track with distorted sounds and an eerie laugh akin to the music hating Blue Meanies from Beatles movie Yellow Submarine.  Coincidence or a very clever reference and addition?

Album closer A Living Sound further confirms that Perc is a very uncompromising artist.  A piano rises from the beginning, repeating itself in a hypnotic loop and providing a landmark end to a great album.

8.5/10

Links

Published on Louder Than War 17/02/14 - here





Music - Part 168 - Aziza Brahim



Aziza Brahim – Soutak
LP/CD/DL
Out Now


The new album from Aziza Brahim features a mixture of Malian, Spanish and Cuban cultures. 

It’s certainly an interesting proposition, a singer with Saharan roots who then moved on to Cuba and Spain whilst being refused the chance to follow a degree in music along the way.  Not only that but being produced by Glitterbeat founder and original member of The Walkabouts, Chris Eckman, is something rather special given that another of his projects, Dirtmusic, received 10/10 from hiapop Blog for last year’s Troubles album.

Aziza was born amongst Saharawi refugee camps along the line of Algeria and Western Sahara.  With obvious political oppression, she moved to Cuba to further her education.  Despite the refusal of her music degree she went back to Algeria and then to Barcelona where she founded Gulili Mankoo, a group with roots both in Saharawi and Spain.

Soutak (translated as ‘Your Voice’) was recorded live and focuses on her striking voice which is mesmerizing and beautiful and sings lyrics which are intimate and universal.  Despite words of incredible power, the tracks are woven together by her exceptional knowledge of song and sound.

Dedicated to her mother, standout track Julud, describes an undying belief in the Saharawi political struggle – “You are an example of humanity and of fight”.  One of many tracks on the album with a familiar sound as though you’ve heard them many times before.  Julud is haunting in its simplicity and the musicianship is sublime.



The Spanish element is obvious with some lovely acoustic guitars and tracks like Aradana showcase the extraordinary voice perfectly backed only by percussion and multiple voices towards the end.  Again, the lyrics are powerful but retain the mystique and beauty throughout – “one day a storm came and took him away. Calmness reigned in the circle of tents and beyond”.

The title track too is stunning.  Inventive music and angelic voice carry the tune from start to finish.  Articulate guitar work and a lovely melody make this as enthralling as anything you will hear this year.  For over two minutes, album closer Ya Watani (My Land) is nothing more than Aziza and her amazing voice.  Subtle hypnotic guitars then come into effect to accompany her dulcet tones.

There are few albums that will affect you the way that Soutak does.  Original and gorgeous, and a very very talented singer.

9/10

Links


Published on Louder Than War 16/02/14 - here