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PopMatters Music Short Takes
our brief reviews of new releases
07 July 2006
Kush Arora, Bhang Ragga: Dancehall Bhangra in Future Dub (Kush Arora Productions)
This beguiling but enthralling release from San Francisco born Kush Arora combines Asian rhythms and Bhangra with dark, dubbed out reggae, and is well worth hearing. It's the sound of Indian music ending up in Jamaica, in a dark sweaty dancehall, and taking over the dingy soundsytem. The fusion of Asian vocals over relentless dub reggae beats and bleeps sounds strangely natural and frequently comes as a thrill. That the whole thing works is mainly down to the fact that Kush Arora has dove right into the dark heat of this reggae, and free from any commercial pretensions, the fearless conviction of the record means it sounds progressive and authentic. And though there's little here to match the slap in the face of the first four tracks, it sure as hell is an interesting ride through some the most banging dark delights that reggae and Bhangra has to offer. Track two, "Sex and Violence" in particular is a fractured, frayed hybrid of invention, featuring galloping Indian percussion and gruff, heavy dub vocals. The Indian and Jamaican styles on Bhang Ragga... are battered and burnt often beyond recognition but this treatment, for the most part, results in a fresh and vital sounding underground music. Maybe it's just that I haven't ever heard anything quite like this record before, but on this hearing Bhang Ragga... could well be a release worth investigating.
multiple songs: [MP3]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
world / bhangra / reggae
The Lucksmiths, A Hiccup in Your Happiness EP (Matinee)
Released as a second single from their newest album Warmer Corners, "A Hiccup in Your Happiness" shows that twee Aussies The Lucksmiths are more than just your average Belle and Sebastian acolytes. "And it hurts even more than you thought/ The words get caught," Tali White sings in his upbeat, hopeful tenor. "Hiccup" is a wonderful piece of pop music, using guitars, horns, and its sweet lyrics to melt listeners' hearts. Even better yet, perhaps, are the three near-perfect bonus tracks on this EP: "From Macaulay Station", the delicate "Rue Something", and the stunning "To Absent Votes", a harmonica-laden lullaby you won't ever want to end. Evocative lyrics add quirk and warmth to the somber melody as White sings, "We took some beers down to the landlocked jetty/ And looked across the lake/ At the detritus of election night/ In a town without a traffic light/ Curling at the edges/ Like a pre-loved paperback." The Lucksmiths' gift is in writing songs whose melody captures your attention, but whose lyrics manage to hold it. And their ever-present optimism is just icing on the cake. "To Absent Votes" wins mine for song of the summer, and A Hiccup in Your Happiness proves that The Lucksmiths know what it means to take a sad song and make it better.
"A Hiccup in Your Happiness": [streaming]
multiple songs: [MySpace]
Indie / Pop
Various Artists, Elektronische Musik – Interkontinental 5 (Traum)
It's minimalizm! Sorry, after all those k's and z's in the title, I couldn't resist. Less minimalistic than just plain progressive, this German compilation, released each spring on the under-the-radar Traum label, has consistently introduced new artists with innovative takes on the microhouse sound, and a heartwarming vision of one sound, one world. The mix proceeds from Lars Wickinger's "Ghostrider" like this: with very soft percussion, held up by a swooping synth and a building energy, it's the kind of track you forget is having a precise, calculated effect because the changes are so small; suddenly you turn around and it's booming with late night sonics. There's not much by way of melody here, and songs don't follow the accustomed textural arc, but when the synths tug in syncopation with the beat on Linus Quick's "Tri-State", or on Gabriel Kogler's "Romantisch Im Westend" when the layered electro melody bends away just as it comes together to form a chord, it's a distinct and trippy pleasure. In an attempt to counteract the perceived over-saturation of masculinity in house music, Interkontinental 5 is feminine and optimistic: a precise, complexly patterned chamber piece for techno aficionados.
multiple songs: [streaming]
Scott Solter, One River (Tell-All)
You might know Solter for his work behind the boards or backing artists such as John Vanderslice or the Mountain Goats. With One River, his second release, he's still not pining for attention, having crafted a gorgeous ambient work that, true to form, shouldn't make you take notice. But maybe it should. Solter employs his field recordings, processed guitars, and drones in a manner that can be as engaging as it is soothing, turning the lights down without shutting them off. Solter's writing for a very particular audience, and they should like this. At the same time it's the sort of ambient record that might be more accessible to those unfamiliar. The shifts aren't slow, the sounds are lovely, and you can follow the music. Plus, it's effective as ambience, and everyone has a need for that at times.
"Antique Brothers": [MP3]
.: posted by Editor 5:20 AM