|music that makes my ears wiggle|
The Pyramids "Birth / Speed / Merging 1976", 2006, EM Records
Sure, it's free jazz, but it's far more unusual than that, far more African, with not only the requisite skronks and horn shrieks, but chock full of African chants, melodic bamboo flute, quiet tinkly bell and flute passages, warm muted kalimba flurries, raga drones, rackety hand drum backgrounds, groovy yet frenetic acoustic bass, what now sounds a bit like "new folk", Afrofunk-meets-Can blitzkriegs, and clattery percussion ambience. It all works together, and quite well. There's very little information about this release, except that it was recorded at His Master's Wheels Studio in November 1975 and released in 1976, and that the instrumentation also includes talking drum, Ugandan harp, congas, bongaos, alto sax, ku cheng, Guatemalan stick drum, and Hagstrom bass guitar, in addition to drums, acoustic bass, bamboo flutes, and vocals. It's a fantastic release from start to finish, and even when it gets wild and free, it rarely has that "kicked-my-percussion-down-the-stairs" sound.
MUSIC FROM ECUADOR - SPECIAL SECTION
Marimba Cayapas, "Típica Marimba Esmeraldeña" (orig.1970, ONIX)
So good. Frantic and joyous Afro-Ecuadorian music from ancestors who arrived on the Esmeraldas coast between the early 1500s and 1600s via wrecked slave ships or bold escapes through the dense jungle from Colombian sugar plantations. The main instrument, the marimba, is virtually unchanged from its West African origins, and in Esmeraldas is made from a very hard wood called chonta and bamboo resonators. The music is frenzied, with maracas and drums accompanying dizzying marimba rhythms while trance-like, often improvised vocals weave it all together. It's almost impossible to hear this and not want to get up and dance. Very colorful and vibrant, and highly recommended, assuming you can find it. It was originally released in 1970 on LP, and I found a copy in a CD store in Loja, Ecuador. If anyone else has cool Afro-Ecuadorian marimba music, please email me about how I can get it - thanks!
Muscaria "Movimiento" 2001 (self-released)
Compré "Movimiento" en Quito, y amo la música y el mensaje. Muscaria originally formed in 1994 out of a skateboarding crew with Luis Fernando Cordovez (bass, vocals), Nicholas Cavallero (drums), and Alex Caicedo (guitar). "Movimiento" is the second release from the Quito, Ecuador-based hardcore band, but the first with new band members Jason de la Vega (guitar) and Juan Posso (drums). "Movimiento" was recorded by Vlado Meller, engineer for Metallica and the Red Hot Chili Peppers.
The music has strong revolutionary messages throughout, demanding a world without racism or oppression. The music is crushing and tight, but also surprisingly nuanced, dynamic and melodic, with occasional delicate passages, turntable scratching, even a bit of rapping. I would imagine that Muscaria has gone over well at the festivals they've played, including A.N.I.M.A.L.FEST (Peru)AGGROFEST (Chile), PULULAHUA 99, Quitofest (headliners), and opening for Sepultura and Korzus. Excellent music.
I got this at DVT Records at the corner of G. Ramirez Davalos and Amazonas. Check out Muscaria on MySpace.
Hostill, "Hostill", 2005, self-released on Bajos Tragos Records
I also bought this in Quito, Ecuador at DVT Records on Davalos and Amazonas, after telling the metal enthusiast there that I was looking for classic metal from a band in Ecuador, something like Iron Maiden or Judas Priest. And that's pretty much what it is. Mostly melodic, not very dark, '80s-style metal, not that many solos, and some very cool drumming from Juan Carlos Romero, one of the band members that rose from the ashes of Euro-metal band Sparta to form Hostill, along with James Sloan from the band Blaze, who came in to replace former vocalist Santiago Andrade, who had to leave due to work-related reasons. I doubt this is available in very many places outside of Ecuador, but more information can be found here.
Sobrepeso, "Anorexia", 2004 Circulo Musical
Second CD release from Cuenca-based rock-funk band and recorded and mixed in Quito and Cuenca (the first CD The Roulette was produced by Sergio Sacoto of Ecuadorian pop band Cruks in Karnak). Sobrepeso (Spanish for "overweight") mixes together Red Hot Chili Peppers/Rage Against the Machine-like funk rock with heavy Latino rock influences and bits of wah-wah guitar and scratchin'. All of the playing is extremely tight, with some adventurous guitar parts sprinkled throughout the disc, including some Steve Vai-influenced guitar breaks in Basta and Fuego and elsewhere. It's well-recorded, and they're all clearly good musicians...and...it just doesn't quite hit me, especially tracks like El Diablo or Basta, which sound very '80s funk-rock with its throbbin' slappin' funk bass and high vocals, but not in a really cool way. I like the ambition here, so even though it ain't quite my thang, what puts one person in a funk may make another kick out the funk.
Red Hot Chili Peppers, "Stadium Arcadium", 2006 Warner Bros.
Double-CD release from RHCP, who continue to remain relevant some 20-something years after they initially began. They don't need the publicity since they're signed to a well-oiled publicity machine - I just happen to like this and figured I'd mention it here. "Stadium Arcadium" is seemingly a hodgepodge of everything they've ever dabbled in, from catchy singalong pop to poppin' funk to slow but cool ballads "Snow (Hey Oh)" sure is catchy, and the Hendrix-like ejaculations at the end of "Dani California" (and is it me, or did they listen to a lot of Tom Petty's "Mary Jane's Last Dance"?).
Alceu Valenca and Geraldo Azevedo, "Quadrafonico",
2006 Discos Mariposa
Originally released in 1972 in stereo, but remixed in glorious Quadraphonic surround. Alceu Valenca (pretend that I printed a cedille in the "c" in "Valenca", won't you?) is a well-known Brasilian composer that mixes native northeastern rhythms with elements of rock and psychedelia. Geraldo Azevedo is a virtuoso guitar player who started playing with various Brazilian pop artists, and adds a melancholy, folky sort of vibe on this release. This release has a sort of breezy, easy, psychedelia that is instantly enchanting and open, wtih simple '60s style organ, steady groovy percussion, and interesting arrangements courtesy of composer/arranger Rogerio Duprat, who has also worked with Gal Costa, Gilberto Gil, and Os Mutantes. Major bonus for keeping in the coughing in "Novena".
Wolfmother, "Wolfmother", 2006 Modular/Interscope
Serious Sabbath fixation, with its cool fuzzy riffs and little psychedelic touches, occasionally sounding somewhat Zeppelinesque and even White Stripe-ish. The music, if obviously derivative, is good sick fun, with flute solos and organs and Sabbathy guitar grooves. If you can ignore dippy lyrics such as "come and see the mind's eye, we can find it if we try, come and see the mind's eye, transfixed upon the why" or the mind-numbing "woman, you know that you're a woman, you got to be a woman, I got the feeling of love...", and really like songs about unicorns, other dimensions, or purple hazes in the sky, you're good to go.
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