World funk

The Weekend Australian - Review - - Music Reviews - Tony Hil­lier

What Heat Bokante + Metropole Ork­est Real World/Planet What Heat is white-hot: a cin­e­mat­i­cally mu­si­cal master­piece that in size, scope and style is as vi­sion­ary and kalei­do­scopic as the cas­cad­ing sound­scapes cre­ated by Philip Glass for his Koy­aanisqatsi, Powaqqatsi, Naqoyqatsi tril­ogy. Com­pris­ing vir­tu­osic mu­si­cian­ship, com­plex and ex­otic rhyth­mi­cal pat­terns and mul­ti­coloured mul­ti­cul­tural com­po­nents, the al­bum links a rel­a­tively re­cently as­sem­bled eight-piece su­per­group con­tain­ing play­ers from five coun­tries in­clud­ing mem­bers of a Grammy award-win­ning New York-based jaz­z­funk band, a French-Caribbean chanteuse and a Sting/Paul Si­mon side­man with the 40+ mem­bers of one of Europe’s most eclec­tic and ac­claimed or­ches­tras. The re­sul­tant mix of dis­parate mu­sic in­flu­ences and in­stru­ments could have been messy but un­der the in­spired di­rec­tion/ar­rang­ing of Bokante’s main man, Michael League and The Nether­lands’ Metropole Ork­est’s English con­duc­tor Jules Buck­ley, the set is any­thing but clut­tered.

It could be ar­gued that the soar­ing voice of Guadaloupe-born Ma­lika Tirolien and the so­ciopo­lit­i­cal mes­sages con­veyed via the Canada-based singer’s lyrics (in French and Cre­ole) are the glue that binds this am­bi­tious col­lab­o­ra­tion, but that would de­value the co­he­sion brought to the project by Bokante’s su­perla­tive per­cus­sion and guitar sec­tions and the ver­sa­til­ity of the strings, wood­winds and brass of the orchestra’s clas­si­cal mu­si­cians, who seem equally adept as a jazz big band.

Suf­fice it to say that Bokante’s melange of Caribbean, African, Mid­dle Eastern, jazz and rock in­flu­ences gels bril­liantly with the sweep­ing strings and horn in­jec­tions supplied by the Metropole Ork­est. The ex­panse and va­ri­ety of sound through eight pro­tracted suites is sim­ply breath­tak­ing, with the com­bined col­lec­tives sashay­ing from down­beat to dy­namic groove while twist­ing and turn­ing like a shoal of reef fish.

What Heat opens men­ac­ingly with the clat­ter­ing per­cus­sion and moody vo­cals of All the Way Home. Bod Lanme Pa Lwen trans­forms dra­mat­i­cally from cruise con­trol to edgy rocker half­way through. In Cham­bre a Echos, Tirolien sings atop a bed of swirling strings, growl­ing horns and a hyp­notic bari­tone guitar fig­ure. Bluesy do­bro helps set up the cur­tain-clos­ing La Maison En Feu be­fore Mid­dle Eastern-mod­u­lated vi­o­lins and a busy choral sec­tion com­bine for a fit­tingly fiery and thrilling fi­nale.

It would seem, in ret­ro­spect, that Bokante’s cap­ti­vat­ing 2017 de­but al­bum, Strange Cir­cles, was the har­bin­ger of even more bril­liant and cre­ative mu­sic to come.

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