Al­bums by Champs and var­i­ous artists play­ing folk mu­sic from the Sa­hel

Pasatiempo - - NEWS -

CHAMPS Va­mala (PIAS) Broth­ers Michael and David Cham­pion, who hail from Eng­land’s Isle of Wight, got their start play­ing folk-pop that of­ten re­flects the lush, beau­ti­ful, and some­what melan­choly na­ture of the coastal land­scapes there. Va­mala fol­lows the same cur­rents as their 2014 de­but,

Down Like Gold , but they’ve made a few im­por­tant ad­just­ments to their sound that helps pro­pel it into the ranks of 2015’s very best al­bums to date. They ditch the two-part har­monies that made some of Down Like Gold ’s ma­te­rial come across like a poor Xerox of Simon and Gar­funkel, and in­stead give Michael’s in­cred­i­ble tim­bre the full spot­light while rel­e­gat­ing David’s fine voice to a sup­port­ing role. They’ve also re­placed the more chip­per folk-pop songs with stark synth-pop. This aes­thetic shift not only gives them a more mod­ern, of-the-mo­ment feel, but also suits their tal­ents bet­ter. Open­ing track “De­sire” clocks in at dance-floor-friendly tem­pos, with lay­ers of slick bass lines pro­vid­ing an ideal foun­da­tion for Michael’s mov­ing, an­drog­y­nous vo­cals, which here slip into the naked fragility of Yoko Ono’s dance songs. “Sophia” and “Run­ning” strengthen the duo’s po­si­tion with bold pi­ano, prom­i­nent per­cus­sion, and sinewy gui­tar lines. Songs such as “For­ever Be Up­stand­ing at the Door” re­turn them to their folky roots, and “Send Me Down” brings a gospel in­flu­ence to the fore. What­ever mu­si­cal guise they don, it all works by virtue of im­proved song­writ­ing and a stronger sense of self. — Robert Ker

VAR­I­OUS ARTISTS Folk Mu­sic of the Sa­hel 1: Niger (Sub­lime Fre­quen­cies) With his world-mu­sic la­bel Sub­lime Fre­quen­cies, Hisham Mayet has be­come some­thing of a cross be­tween Alan Lo­max and An­thony Bour­dain, trav­el­ing to war-torn land­scapes to record popular and rit­ual mu­sic in Africa and the Mid­dle East. In the process, he ex­poses the mu­si­cians he en­coun­ters to wider au­di­ences in Europe and North Amer­ica. For the de­but of his am­bi­tious new project — a planned six-vol­ume se­ries sur­vey­ing the mu­si­cal land­scape of Niger’s Sa­hel re­gion, famed for its mix of no­madic an­i­mist and Afro-Is­lamic cul­tures — Mayet has re­leased a trove of field record­ings he col­lected over the past decade. The al­bum in­cludes live record­ings of gri­ots, or praise singers, whose im­pro­vised, hand-per­cus­sion-backed per­for­mances blend sto­ry­telling, gos­sip, and com­men­tary on lo­cal events. An as­ton­ish­ing cut from Koud­ede, a popular Tuareg gui­tarist killed last year in a car ac­ci­dent, show­cases his haunt­ing, Ara­bic-in­fused, bluesy songs that made him a lo­cal hero. Songs to back the courtship dances of the Wo­daabe tribe as well as sev­eral call-and-re­sponse cho­ruses, syn­co­pated to oil-can drums, round out this col­lec­tion. — Casey Sanchez

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.