Music

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou: Echos Hypnotiques: From the Vaults of Albarika Store 1969-1979

The relentlessness of this music is exhilarating, the thickness of it, the groove, the band's refusal to let the listener slow down.


Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou

Echos Hypnotiques

Subtitle: From the Vaults of Albarika Store 1969-1979
Label: Analog Africa
US Release Date: 2009-11-10
UK Release Date: 2009-10-26
Amazon
iTunes

Echos Hypnotiques starts with tick-clap tick-clap, and the spaces between those ticks and claps are the last bits of loose, uninhabited air we hear until the end of the album 78 minutes later. Brass comes in and everything is speed, density, singing, singing, and churning, churning, ideas from Afro-America, ideas from Afro-Africa, afrobeat, vodoun, percussive sato, venerable sakpata, ideas from the French mid-century rocker Johnny Hallyday, ideas from, I swear, psychedelic Britain: the keyboard lushly bleeds and drools, and the lead singer urges it forward like a shepherd pushing his sly and dawdling lambs with a crook made up of ejaculated syllables that sound sometimes like this: "Tcha! Tcha!" He's singing in -- well, I'd have to look it up. Fon? Fon. The press kit promises that, in the commercial release, things like languages will be explained in a:

44 page booklet filled with … pictures of the band, a complete discography, and a biography tracing the band from its foundation as Groupe Meloclem in 1964 via Sunny Black's band [1965], Orchestre Poly-Rythmo [1966], El Ritmo [1967] and finally, Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou in 1968.

I don't have that booklet, but judging from the standard of Samy ben Redjeb's past booklets, I'm going to assume that it will be as good as it sounds. Caveat emptor, I don't know for sure. But anyone willing to trace the tangled web of those African bands that form, re-form, argue, split in half, borrow new members from somebody else, find a fresh patron, re-name themselves -- etc etc -- is showing some kind of exemplary dedication. The first two times I reviewed Analog Africa's releases, I pointed out that the label didn't have a website and I don't think I've ever corrected that, so here, now, is the address: analogafrica.blogspot.com.

Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou comes from Benin. That "de Cotonou" in the name gives away its hometown, Cotonou, the country's largest and most financially bustling city, sitting on the coastline in the south. The Orchestre was introduced to mainstream modern western listeners in 2004 when the British label Soundway released a Poly-Rythmo retrospective. Four years later, Analog Africa released a different one. That album covered the years 1972-1975, and the music was drawn from the vaults of various labels. This new, third album runs from 1969 to 1979 and takes its tracks from a single label, Albarika. Why Albarika alone? Because Albarika released only slightly less than half the Poly-Rythmo tracks that the compiler ben Redjeb found when he started digging. There were 200 Albarika tracks to choose from, announces the press kit. 500 songs in all. And then I check the track lists of the three retrospectives to make sure there isn't any overlap, and when I see there isn't, I feel silly for even having looked. With hundreds of tracks to choose from, why would you need to repeat them?

Earlier this year, Analog Africa released Legends of Benin, a compilation of different bands. Where that album was wide, this album is deep. Legends of Benin's El Rego imitates James Brown, but the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo assimilates him, and others too, making everything cohere in a style that is theirs: Poly-Rythmo style, played with the flair of a band that took each new idea as a challenge and an opportunity, rather than a reason to feel overwhelmed. The relentlessness of this music is exhilarating, the thickness of it, the groove, the band's refusal to let the listener slow down. Everything is sweet, deep, rich. None of the other 1970s Benin bands on Legends are quite this distinctive.

8

Music

Books

Film

Recent
Music

'What a Fantastic Death Abyss': David Bowie's 'Outside' at 25

David Bowie's Outside signaled the end of him as a slick pop star and his reintroduction as a ragged-edged arty agitator.

Music

Dream Folk's Wolf & Moon Awaken the Senses with "Eyes Closed" (premiere)

Berlin's Wolf & Moon are an indie folk duo with a dream pop streak. "Eyes Closed" highlights this aspect as the act create a deep sense of atmosphere and mood with the most minimal of tools.

Television

Ranking the Seasons of 'The Wire'

Years after its conclusion, The Wire continues to top best-of-TV lists. With each season's unique story arc, each viewer is likely to have favorites.

Film

Paul Reni's Silent Film 'The Man Who Laughs' Is Serious Cinema

There's so much tragedy present, so many skullduggeries afoot, and so many cruel and vindictive characters in attendance that a sad and heartbreaking ending seems to be an obvious given in Paul Reni's silent film, The Man Who Laughs.

Music

The Grahams Tell Their Daughter "Don't Give Your Heart Away" (premiere)

The Grahams' sweet-sounding "Don't Give Your Heart Away" is rooted in struggle, inspired by the couples' complicated journey leading up to their daughter's birth.

Music

Gloom Balloon Deliver an Uplifting Video for "All My Feelings For You" (premiere)

Gloom Balloon's Patrick Tape Fleming considers what making a music video during a pandemic might involve because, well, he made one. Could Fellini come up with this plot twist?

Music

Brian Cullman Gets Bluesy with "Someday Miss You" (premiere)

Brian Cullman's "Someday Miss You" taps into American roots music, carries it across the Atlantic and back for a sound that is both of the past and present.

Music

IDLES Have Some Words for Fans and Critics on 'Ultra Mono'

On their new album, Ultra Mono, IDLES tackle both the troubling world around them and the dissenters that want to bring them down.

Music

Napalm Death Return With Their Most Vital Album in Decades

Grindcore institution Napalm Death finally reconcile their experimental side with their ultra-harsh roots on Throes of Joy in the Jaws of Defeatism.

Film

NYFF: 'Notturno' Looks Passively at the Chaos in the Middle East

Gianfranco Rosi's expansive documentary, Notturno, is far too remote for its burningly immediate subject matter.

Film

What 'O Brother, Where Art Thou?' Gets Right (and Wrong) About America

Telling the tale of the cyclops through the lens of high and low culture, in O'Brother, Where Art Thou? the Coens hammer home a fatalistic criticism about the ways that commerce, violence, and cosmetic Christianity prevail in American society .

Music

The Avett Brothers Go Back-to-Basics with 'The Third Gleam'

For their latest EP, The Third Gleam, the Avett Brothers leave everything behind but their songs and a couple of acoustic guitars, a bass, and a banjo.

Music

PM Picks Playlist 1: Rett Madison, Folk Devils + More

The first PopMatters Picks Playlist column features searing Americana from Rett Madison, synthpop from Everything and Everybody, the stunning electropop of Jodie Nicholson, the return of post-punk's Folk Devils, and the glammy pop of Baby FuzZ.

Books

David Lazar's 'Celeste Holm  Syndrome' Appreciates Hollywood's Unsung Character Actors

David Lazar's Celeste Holm Syndrome documents how character actor work is about scene-defining, not scene-stealing.

Music

David Lord Salutes Collaborators With "Cloud Ear" (premiere)

David Lord teams with Jeff Parker (Tortoise) and Chad Taylor (Chicago Underground) for a new collection of sweeping, frequently meditative compositions. The results are jazz for a still-distant future that's still rooted in tradition.

Music

Laraaji Takes a "Quiet Journey" (premiere +interview)

Afro Transcendentalist Laraaji prepares his second album of 2020, the meditative Moon Piano, recorded inside a Brooklyn church. The record is an example of what the artist refers to as "pulling music from the sky".

Music

Blues' Johnny Ray Daniels Sings About "Somewhere to Lay My Head" (premiere)

Johnny Ray Daniels' "Somewhere to Lay My Head" is from new compilation that's a companion to a book detailing the work of artist/musician/folklorist Freeman Vines. Vines chronicles racism and injustice via his work.

Music

The Band of Heathens Find That Life Keeps Getting 'Stranger'

The tracks on the Band of Heathens' Stranger are mostly fun, even when on serious topics, because what other choice is there? We all may have different ideas on how to deal with problems, but we are all in this together.


Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews



Features
Collapse Expand Features

PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.