Monday, May 31, 2010

Ripples Around the World – Featuring Mr. Something Something, Jorge Strunz and EarthRise SoundSystem

Mr. Something Something - Shine Your Face

Back in the late ‘80’s a new music movement swept through San Francisco like a tsunami.  World Beat was a fusion of rock, soul, Latin, and world music elements, all fused into one politically charged, massive-booty swinging rhythmic orgy.  Bands like the Looters and Zulu Spear took charge there, blasting their uproarious world fusion to pulsating throngs, dancing in the streets, swinging from light posts, sweating in the nightclubs.  At that time, I was massively into African bands like Toure Kunda, King Sunny Ade, and Fela, as well as being fully immersed in reggae from Black Uhuru, Mutabaruka, and Augustus Pablo, amongst others.  I was also DJing a weekly reggae show at KSDT FM.  As a former sworn metalhead, World Beat gave me a new sound to latch onto, combining the dynamic rhythms and pulsating beats of my new found musical love with the flat out familiar rock elements of my former home.  World Beat came and I bought the ticket, sold the farm, and joined the band.

Someday I still mean to get the Looters reviewed in these pages, but currently, my ears are wrapping around a sound so familiar in intent, but so totally fresh, that I haven’t found the time to dig those old Looters LP’s out.  Mr. Something Something, coming from Toronto, take all the blazing dancefloor passionate, polyrhythmic experience of Nigeria and Ghana, and add a glorious amount of good ol'
soul and funk to create an intoxicating blend of their own world beat mania.  Adding a solid horn section into the mix of afrobeat guitar, percolating bass and impossible-to-resists beats, keeps the party flowing like a 24-hour soundsystem.  Toss in their “green life” beliefs (a recent concert was powered entirely by fans generating electricity on bicycle rigs) and political savvy and we got something Mr. Something Something affectionately calls “dancefloor activisim.”

And who am I to argue that.  Imagine the best of Johnny Clegg and Savuka, mixed with my old time favorites The Looters.  Beats don’t just come at you, they surround you, lift you up by the hips and start shaking them all on their own.  The arrangements are complex and layered and the soul is achingly fresh.  And best of all, underneath it all there beats a heavy rock and roll heart.

It’s a party for your ears and your butt..  Afropop at it’s finest.

buy here: Shine Your Face

Jorge Strunz – Neotropical Nocturnes

In truth, there’s not much that I can say about Jorge Strunz.  As half of the neo-flamenco guitar duo Strunz and Farah, I’d gobbled up each album of their delectable guitar feasts like a man eating his first bite after a hunger strike.  Emerging to prominence around the same time that Ottmar Liebert’s star took flight, Strunz and Farah wove and picked and strummed and crafted some of the most gorgeous, intricate, and impassioned neo-flamenco ever released to human ears.  If the thought of a warm afternoon patio, a glass of breathing red wine and flamenco sounds like your idea of a party, any Strunz and Farah album would fit the bill for your soundtrack to heaven.

Now, releasing a solo disc, Jorge Strunz brings all that passion, precision, technique and magic to Neotropical Nocturnes, and the results are nothing short of magnificent.  Let’s be honest, I’m a rock and roll writer (if that). I can’t tell you what Jorge is doing with his picking hand, or his technique of simultaneously strumming as the whips our arpeggios at mind-boggling speed.  I don’t have the words to describe the beauty of his notes, but let it suffice to say, they are beautiful.  Romantic.  Exotic.  Alluring.  I could break out my thesaurus to find more words, but I'd rather not.  I'd rather just sit here and listen to the music.

Strunz’s guitar is like a musical magic carpet blessed with the power to lift you up and carry you away.  Enchanted lands await. 

No fan of flamenco guitar should miss this one.

buy here: Neotropical Nocturnes

EarthRise SoundSystem – The Yoga Sessions

Contrary to any images the name may conjure, EarthRise SoundSystem’s, The Yoga Sessions, aren’t slow, new-agey tunes designed to numb the corporate-mindset while they adopt strange positions and stretch their backs.  Mixing Eastern voices, instruments, and thoughts with some serious downtempo beats and chill bass, this is luscious yogic lounge music of the highest order.  Anyone who’s ever spent any time in a Hindi ashram knows how beautiful the bhajans can be.  What EarthRise does is take the pulse of those bhajans and marry them to Western beats and rhythms, creating a heavenly, pulsing, throbbing, intoxicating blend of Hindi-chill.

Again, there’s way too much pulse here to use it as background music while you wrangle your body out of “downward dog” pose into “cobra.”  But that’s not the intent.  Think of this as a sumptuous late night chill album, or an early Sunday morning coffee riser and you’ll get the feeling. 

Exotic in flavor, spiritual in nature, the vocals float and dance above the lingering dancefloor beat.  Basses throb in sensual pulses, approaching a point of complete higher-self eroticism. “Intention” leads us off, with its prayer of a vocal chant, repetitive in nature, blessing us as we embark on this journey. Harmonies layer on, building softy over the heartbeat of bass.   Songs like “Dash Nayad,” could create a swirling throng of heated bodies on any late-night dance floor. Forget all thoughts of this being a “world beat” album, this is just addictive down-tempo chill.  Perfect for calming the night, settling the soul. “Daylight as Sunset” reminds me of some of the best of Si*Se, throbbing downbeat lounge. 

I’m always on the lookout for a good chill album to calm the ears after all the metal, punk, and garage we get at the Ripple.  Previously, my favorite recommendation would’ve been to check out the Angel Beach 3-CD set.  Now, I got EarthRise SoundSystem and all is right in Ripple world.


buy here: Yoga Sessions: Earthrise Soundsystem

Mr Something Something (song not from this album)

Jorge Strunz (song not from this album)

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