quarta-feira, 15 de fevereiro de 2017

Anouar Brahem - Astrakan Café 2000

The Tunisian oud genius has done it again. Anouar Brahem has issued only five records under his own name over the past decade, each more adventurous than the last, without compromising his original vision: for the music of his region to meet with the other music of Africa and Asia and create a delirious sound that is equal thirds past, present, and future, along the precipice of historical lineage. For Brahem there is no attempt to synthesize the globe, or even the sounds of the East with those of the West. He is content in his knowledge that sound is infinite, and that his tradition, as it evolves and expands into a deeper pan-African/trans-Asian whole, is more than large enough for a master musician to rummage through in one lifetime. Astrakan Café, the follow-up to his brilliant Thimar, is a smaller-sounding recording that reaches farther into the deep crags of the Balkans. With Barbaros Erköse on clarinet and the Indian and Turkish percussion stylings of the professor of somber precision, Lassad HosniBrahem's oud enters into a dialogue, musically, that has never before existed (though he has collaborated with both players previously). Erköse is a Turkish clarinetist of gypsy origin. His low, warm, rounded tones are consonant with the oud. Erköse plays equal parts music of the Balkan and Arab worlds with a tinge of the ancient klezmorim whispering their secrets through his horn. Despite the journeying these musicians do here, they never stray far from the takht, a small ensemble capable of improvising to the point of drunken ecstasy. Listening through Astrakan Café, you can hear the gypsy flamenco tied deeply to Indian ragas and even a kind of Eastern jazz. But there is no hyperactivity in it, no need to cram as many traditions as possible into one putridly excessive mix that expresses nothing but the novelty of the moment. Astrakan Café has many highlights: its two title tracks that have their roots in Russian and Azerbaijan music; "Ashkabad," which is an improvisation on a melody from the folk music of Turkmenistan; "Astara," a modal improvisation based on love songs from Azerbaijan; "Halfounie," a segment from a Brahem-composed soundtrack inspired by the medina or marketplace in Tunis; and "Parfum de Gitanie," which takes a fragment from Ethiopian sacred music, slows it to the point of stillness, and waxes lazily and jazzily over the top, with the oud and the clarinet trading syncopated eights. This is deeply personal, profound music. It is also highly iconographic, with timelessness woven through every measure. The only "exotica" on Astrakan Café is its "otherness" out of space and any discernable era. The tempos are languid and full of purpose, the dynamics clean and clearly demarcated, the tones and modes warm, rich, and linear. This would be traditional music if a tradition such as this -- which is original, though adapted from many sources on inspiration -- actually existed. Highly recommended. AMG.

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The Wrong Object - After The Exhibition 2013

Five years after 2008's Stories from the Shed, Belgian avant jazz-rockers the Wrong Object return as a remarkably changed band with a new outlook to match on the 2013 MoonJune release After the ExhibitionMichel Delville remains a guiding force, a highly creative electric guitarist who composed or co-composed six of the album's 11 tracks, but he and drummer Laurent Delchambre are the only returning bandmembers -- the Wrong Object are now a sextet featuring saxophonist/clarinetist Marti Melia, saxophonist François Lourtie, bassist Pierre Mottet, and keyboardist/vocalist Antoine Guenet (Univers ZeroSH.TG.N). In addition, guest vibraphonist/marimbist Benoit Moerlen (GongGongzilla) performs on over half the tracks. With the previous lineup's very capable trumpeter (Jean-Paul Estiévenart) and tenor saxophonist (Fred Delplancq) replaced by two diverse reedmen, Guenet and his widely diverse keyboard voicings, and Moerlen and his crisp tuned percussion, the Wrong Object have a much more varied instrumental palette, and they don't waste their new potential for an instant. In its sax-fueled riff-centric moments and with the density, complexity, and unpredictability of its compositional touches -- which never drag down the music's forward momentum -- the band sometimes recalls the '90s Belgian band X-Legged Sally, and that should be considered a high compliment. They don't bother with a slow buildup either, bashing out the assaultive jazz-metal opener, "Detox Gruel," like a cross between XLS and King Crimson's "Larks' Tongues in Aspic, Pt. 2," and the moment when "Jungle Cow, Pt. 3" threatens to segue into Led Zeppelin's "Immigrant Song" also pushes the requisite rock buttons. But these interludes are merely one façet in a wildly diverse set mixing tight avant-proggy arrangements with jazzed-up harmonics and energetic solos. The Wrong Object have previously melded Balkan/Eastern European/Middle Eastern elements with creative jazz (e.g., "Honeypump Riff" from 2007's Platform One), and After the Exhibition's "Spanish Fly" and "Yantra" tread similar ground. For standout improvisations, note the latter track's showcases for Melia's low-down blurty bass sax, Guenet's burning, swooping keys, and, after Delville's segue of bursts and roars, the high-flying marimba/soprano sax dialogue between Moerlen and Lourtie. Even the collective improv "Jungle Cow, Pt. 1" is densely packed with sounds; free-form but not meandering, it's a perfect entry into the "Jungle Cow" suite's later angularities, rhythmic shifts, and fiery soloing. But the biggest surprise is "Glass Cubes." The eight-and-a-half-minute track begins with Guenet's piano and features vocals from the husband-and-wife team of Guenet and Susan Clynes evoking a mysterious, even magical mood -- their harmonizing suggests the heyday of Caravan over 40 years previously. As Clynes' powerful voice cuts through the wailing saxes at the song's conclusion in an exuberant 9/8 meter, "Glass Cubes" is anthemic yet freewheeling, a Canterbury-style reinvention with a fresh, invigorating 21st century spin. Concluding the album with "Stammtisch," the most purely Zappa-esque number and yet another highlight, merely reinforces the notion that After the Exhibition is the Wrong Object's most diverse and arguably strongest outing thus far. AMG.

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Sigur Rós - Ágætis Byrjun 1999

Two years passed since Sigur Rós' debut. By this time, the band recruited in a new keyboardist by the name of Kjartan Sveinsson and it seems to have done nothing but take the band to an even higher state of self-awareness. Even on aesthetic matters, Sigur Rós entitle their sophomore effort not in a manner to play up the irony of high expectations (à la the Stone RosesSecond Coming), but in a modest realization. This second album -- Ágætis Byrjun -- translates roughly to Good Start. So as talented as Von might have been, this time out is probably even more worthy of dramatic debut expectations. Indeed, Ágætis Byrjun pulls no punches from the start. After an introduction just this side of one of the aforementioned Stone Roses' backward beauties, the album pumps in the morning mist with "Sven-G-Englar" -- a song of such accomplished gorgeousness that one wonders why such a tiny country as Iceland can musically outperform entire continents in just a few short minutes. The rest of this full-length follows such similar quality. Extremely deep strings underpin falsetto wails from the mournfully epic ("Viðar Vel Tl Loftárasa") to the unreservedly cinematic ("Avalon"). One will constantly be waiting to hear what fascinating turns such complex musicianship will take at a moment's notice. At its best, the album seems to accomplish everything lagging post-shoegazers like Spiritualized or Chapterhouse once promised. However, at its worst, the album sometimes slides into an almost overkill of sonic structures. Take "Hjartað Hamast (Bamm Bamm Bamm)," for instance: there are so many layers of heavy strings, dense atmospherics, and fading vocals that it becomes an ineffectual mess of styles over style. As expected, though, the band's keen sense of Sturm und Drang is mostly contained within an elegant scope of melodies for the remainder of this follow-up. Rarely has a sophomore effort sounded this thick and surprising. Which means that "Good Start" might as well become of the most charming understatements to come out of a band in years. AMG.

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R.E.M. - Fables of the Reconstruction 1985

For their third album, R.E.M. made a conscious effort to break from the traditions Murmur and Reckoning established, electing to record in England with legendary folk-rock producer Joe Boyd. For a variety of reasons, the sessions were difficult, and that tension is apparent throughout Fables of the Reconstruction. A dark, moody rumination on American folk -- not only the music, but its myths -- Fables is creepy, rustic psychedelic folk, filled with eerie sonic textures. Some light breaks through occasionally, such as the ridiculous collegiate blue-eyed soul of "Can't Get There From Here," but the group's trademark ringing guitars and cryptic lyrics have grown sinister, giving even sing-alongs like "Driver 8" an ominous edge. Fables is more inconsistent than its two predecessors, but the group does demonstrate considerable musical growth, particularly in how perfectly it evokes the strange rural legends of the South. And many of the songs on the record -- including "Feeling Gravitys Pull," "Maps and Legends," "Green Grow the Rushes," "Auctioneer (Another Engine)," and the previously mentioned pair -- rank among the group's best. AMG.

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Metá Metá - Metá Metá 2011

The first album by Metá-Metá achieves two remarkable things; it manages to sound unbelievably fresh as well as sounding as if it could have come from Brazilian music’s hey-day of the 1960s.

Metá-Metá is essentially three musicians, Juçara Marçal on lead vocals, Kiko Dinucci on guitar and backing vocals, and Thiago França on sax and flute. Throughout this debut album I had the feeling I was listening to a long-lost Afro-Sambas tape, which I mean as the greatest tribute. This is guitar work as accomplished as Baden Powell, vocals from Marçal that are equal to greats such as the Maria Bethania and Maria Creuza. And while it will take me a while to decipher whether the lyrics are as strong as those of Vinicius de Moraes, this overall is an album that has that same environment that bestowed those ground-breaking Afro-Samba albums of the 60s.

Kiko Dinucci has been improving as a samba guitarist over the years, as well as becoming more and more embroiled in the world of candomblé, an Afro-Brazilian religion with a strong dance and musical element. In Juçara Marçal he has partnered with a singer who is just as passionate as the religion. The added atmospherics applied by Thiago França add another dimension to this music but it is the voice of Marçal and Dinucci’s dextrous, direct guitar-playing which steal the show.

The opening track “Vale do Jucá” and “Vias de Fato” are the two tracks that most readily resemble the works of Vinicius de Moraes and Baden Powell on the original Afro-Sambas, both strong samba songs with the eerie atmosphere that seemed to imbue many of those original songs. As a contrast “Umbigada” is a sunny melody that sings straght to the heart with a great telepathy between the guitar and flute that intertwine on the way to making the gorgeous melody.

Interestingly the repeated refrain and whispered vocals of “Papel Sulfite” bring to mind Juana Molina, an artist coming from a very different background. Other songs that push Metá-Metá in new directions are “Oranian”, a full band effort which occasionally erupts into a cacophony of drums and sax with Marçal’s singing almost rap-like in it’s directness and flow; and “Obá Iná” which starts with a guitar line which could easily have come from one of the punk bands that Dinucci was in in his early days. This track and the following “Obatalá” are two where there seems to be more of a jazz connection with cymbals crashing, França playing a bigger role on sax and there generally being a sense of free-form construction.

Metá-Metá is truly an extraordinary record, one with a strong candomblé heart – the gods Oxum, Xangô and Obatala feature heavily on these songs – but that also works as a great samba and jazz record. Kiko Dinucci and Juçara Marçal originally worked together on the 2009 album Padê, which was under their two names. That record had it’s moments, but it’s here as Metá-Metá with the presence of Thiago França that they have really managed to find their feet and produce something timeless which will surely be revered for some time, as well as vying with Criolo for the best album of 2011.

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