elevenshadows musicblog


music that makes my ears wiggle



V/A, "Cambodian Rocks" Parallel World
One of my favorite new CDs, this is a compilation of old psychedelic and garage bands from 1960s and '70s Cambodia. Influences from Santana, SF acid, The Seeds, Hendrix, and various psychedelia can be heard, but are given a uniquely Cambodian spin when, for example, a psychedelic guitar intro stops, and the band launches into a surf beat complete with high-pitched, nasally female vocals. There is no documentation of the artists on this compilation. However, I managed to figure out one of the names of one of the artists, Ros Sereysothea, who was quite popular in Cambodia and is still well-known among residents in the Cambodian section of Long Beach, California.


V/A "The Spirit of the Steppes" 2000 Nascente
Beautiful throat-singing from Tuva, featuring jaw-dropping vocal performances by Gennadi Tumat in the Sigit, Kargiraa, and Khoomei styles, Oorzhak Khunashtaar, and Ondar Mongun-Ool, singing in Sigit (a clear-high-pitched whistling sound used for both lyrics and vocalizations).


Mandalay Marionettes & Cultural Show (cassette)
Unfortunately not available in the United States or probably any other country, this amazing cassette attempts to capture the magic of the music accompanying a traditional Burmese marionette show. I purchased this after watching the marionette show, where I was transfixed by the performance of the beautiful marionettes and this music that accompanied it. Often, the music, sometimes reminiscent of some traditional Thai or Indonesian gong ensembles, seemed reckless, almost falling apart, but would suddenly come together on various hits, only to seemingly come apart again. I found this to be utterly enchanting.

Although the Burmese marionette tradition draws upon Indian and Chinese influences, it is astoundingly unique. Much of the ritual dates to ancient spirit worship of nats, which is still practiced widely in Burma today along with Buddhism. Burmese marionette theatre, or youq-the-pwe, has intricate, ornately detailed puppets, and is considered among many Burmese aesthetes to be most expressive of all Burmese arts.

The gong ensemble at his marionette show, known as kyi waing ("kyi" is pronounced "chi" and translates literally to "metal circle"), forms the core of the marionette ensemble. To the Western ear, much of the marionette music may border on cacophony, but to at least this listener, it was pure bliss.

Melodies played on the tuned instruments are frequently broken by rests and consist of segments of two, three, or four notes that form phrases, usually of eight or 16 beats. Several phrases make up to several verses. One drummer was situated in the middle of a circular ensemble of drum, known as the saing-waing player. The saing-waing player typically sits in the middle, leading the orchestra. Each of the 21 or 22 drums are tuned by adding or removing the paste located at the center of each drum head. The paste itself, known as paí sa, or literally, drum food, is made of a mixture of ash and rice powder.


V/A, "Bushmen of the Kalahari" 2000 M.E.L.T. 2000/EFA
Beautiful and varied collection of field recordings of the Kalahari bushmen. Featuring stunning male and female vocal performances, drumming (including "The Great Hunt", which contains this incredibly rubbery "boing-boing" sound that is mesmerizing), kalimba-type instruments, mouth bows, and "Sad Song". Defies description.


Tilahun Gessesse, "Greatest Hits" EthioSound
Fans of the outstanding Ethiopiques series will surely enjoy this collection of Ethiopian groove music (using Western instruments) from Ethiopia's golden explosion of creative music in the late '60s and early '70s. Impossibly catchy, colorful, groovy, and chock full of horns and clean jazzy guitar, with expressive vocals that show a great deal of control and 'warble" that one cannot easily find in Western music.


Crib, "Forward Back" 2000 Win Records
Subtle, subliminal, and extremely sparse music resulting from heavily the heavily manipulated bass of Devin Sarno, this release is a compilation of songs recorded between 1995-1999. Sometimes almost reaching beyond the realm of audible sound, this disc often fills the room with a strange warmth even when the sound is not clearly heard. The live performances are interesting and sonically pleasing.


Titan, "Elevator" 1999 Virgin
Fun electronic grooves from this electronic trio from Mexico. Although pushed by Virgin Records as "cut and paste", it's not even close to that. There are a lot of elements coming in and out of the mix, but it has a cohesion and song structure that features analog keyboards, surf beats, surf guitar, male and female vocalizations, and upbeat, infectious grooves.

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