Milagro Acustico: I Storie ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero

Gypsy Flores

Milagro Acustico

I Storie ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero

Label: Tinder
US Release Date: 2002-11-05
UK Release Date: Available as import

Shelter is important -- shelter from a coming storm, shelter to hide in from the world, or shelter to seek out those of like-mind and share perhaps a few moments of familiarity, comfort, and conversation. We all seek out these places -- whether to be alone and quiet in a crowd of strangers who somehow feel like friends or to commune with people sitting nearby. Perhaps in our dreams, we create such a place that feels somehow like a home for alienated souls. We go there and sit with others who are also far from home and their life-long friends. Here is the sanctuary where we can sit, eat, drink, rest, and tell our stories. I Storie ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero or The Story of the Foreigner's Cafè is a mystical/musical journey to a cafè on a small Sicilian island where travelers have found such a refuge.

Because Sicily is located where it is -- in the middle of the Mediterranean and very close to Tunisia, very close to the Balkans, and southern Europe -- one finds in this imaginary cafè foreigners from places near and very far. Milagro Acustico helps us to experience this in their recording by effectively encompassing a wide variety of sounds that span genres, traveling somewhere between traditional music and jazz. The combination of instruments from the many cultures reflected in their music creates a richly textured sound that is added to by guest musicians such as: Moroccan percussionist and ghayta player Nour Eddine; violinist Jamal Ouassini; Senegalese kora player, Papa Kanoutè; and Pape Yery Samb on djembé. Milagro Acustico is a "world" music group from Italy (many of whom are also of Sicilian descent) who formed in 1995 and has recorded two albums together. (Their first recording Onirico, is self-produced).

The leader and composer for the group, Bob Salmieri grew up in an area of Rome that was built to shelter immigrants who came from southern Italy and Africa. Although Bob's father was Sicilian, he was born in Tunisia and spoke both Sicilian and Arabic; thus, there was a mixture of many cultures in Bob's home as he grew up. On holidays when everyone came together for parties and gatherings, instruments were brought out and everyone shared music as well as stories. Bob feels that he has always played music. When he was six, he and his father traveled to Tunisia where Bob was given his first darbouka (goblet drum) by his father. "This is when I, too. began to tell my stories."

From darbouka, he went on to learn to play guitar then later keyboards. Early on, he was influenced by the music of Miles Davis and Italian saxophonist Massimo Urbani. From this, his love for jazz grew together with his love for the music he had of course heard all his life. I Storie ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero brings together these elements and becomes a source of reconciliation for Bob and his Sicilian background. He felt that somewhere there needed to be a "shelter" for the many immigrants and displaced people of this world, where they could go and find a temporary home or harbor from their troubles and be accepted for who they are no matter what their past. So, the cafè sprung into existence and we can visit whenever we need to find a little consolation too.

"Ricorda O Me Nomi" (or Remember My Name), the first track on the CD is the story of someone who returns home to his little island after his death. He had left his little island in a hurry and now he finds he misses it. His ghost runs through the streets hoping to find some signs of his past, that someone remembers him; that someone even is possibly speaking about him at that moment. Finding few signs (except a grave stone with his name on it and a photograph of when he was a child) and no one that really remembers him, he enters the "cafè" and finds hospitality. The music starts with a rather languorous piano but builds to a rapid pace when the other instruments come in with almost an explosive quality. In the singing, one hears the desperation of the "ghost" as he rushes around his village trying to find traces of his former existence.

The song segues into a lovely little kora (African harp) piece written and played by Pape Kanoutè titled "Dioulo".

Although "Sanghe Meu" literally translates as "My Blood", in this particular song/poem the sense is really more like "my heart" or "my love". Bob's grandfather survived the earthquake in Messina in 1908 when he was a small boy. He had returned to Sicily from Tunis for the first time and after the earthquake he was buried for three days under the debris. He stayed alive for two reasons, he related. One: because there was a small stream that ran next to him where he lie and two: because he had a vision of a beautiful Oriental dancer who helped him. This story is not only the inspiration for "Sanghe Meu" but for the gorgeous painting on the CD's cover. The music has an "oriental" feel and the narrator tells the story rather than sings it with the horns, percussion, and chorus setting the mood.

"A Storia I Me Patri" (My Father's Story) was written for Bob's father. In this song/story, Bob imagines his father, who was born in Tunis, returning by boat to the island of his family (Favignana) for the first time. The music reflects the feeling of being on a calm sea with the boat bobbing up and down and over the waves; yet there is an underlying tension in the chorus, perhaps because of the work of sailing the boat or perhaps because Bob's father felt nervous anticipation as he approached the island of his family.

These stories will also be written as a book of tales one day by Bob Salmieri in Italian, his Sicilian dialect and in English.

"Rubayyat" the next to last song on the recording gives us a hint to Bob and Milagro Acustico's next project -- a work inspired by the writing of Persian poet Omar Khayyam.

I Storie ò Cafè Di Lu Furestiero is a cohesive work that flows from beginning to end. We follow the musical stories the same way we would follow a great conversation or be captivated by a good book -- with interest, a little surprise, and with enough intrigue that we hope that this "good read" won't end too soon so that we can savor each tale.

The year in song reflected the state of the world around us. Here are the 70 songs that spoke to us this year.

70. The Horrors - "Machine"

On their fifth album V, the Horrors expand on the bright, psychedelic territory they explored with Luminous, anchoring the ten new tracks with retro synths and guitar fuzz freakouts. "Machine" is the delicious outlier and the most vitriolic cut on the record, with Faris Badwan belting out accusations to the song's subject, who may even be us. The concept of alienation is nothing new, but here the Brits incorporate a beautiful metaphor of an insect trapped in amber as an illustration of the human caught within modernity. Whether our trappings are technological, psychological, or something else entirely makes the statement all the more chilling. - Tristan Kneschke

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The Best Dance Tracks of 2017

Photo: Murielle Victorine Scherre (Courtesy of Big Beat Press)

From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

In June of 2016, prolific producer Diplo lambasted the world of DJ's in an interview with Billboard, stating that EDM was dying. Coincidentally enough, the article's contents went viral and made their way into Vice Media's electronic music and culture channel Thump, which closed its doors after four years this summer amid company-wide layoffs. Months earlier, electronic music giant SFX Entertainment filed bankruptcy and reemerged as Lifestyle, Inc., shunning the term "EDM".

So here we are at the end of 2017, and the internet is still a flurry with articles declaring that Electronic Dance Music is rotting from the inside out and DJ culture is dying on the vine, devoured by corporate greed. That might all well be the case, but electronic music isn't disappearing into the night without a fight as witnessed by the endless parade of emerging artists on the scene, the rise of North America's first Electro Parade in Montréal, and the inaugural Electronic Music Awards in Los Angeles this past September.

For every insipid, automaton disc jockey-producer, there are innovative minds like Anna Lunoe, Four Tet, and the Black Madonna, whose eclectic, infectious sets display impeccable taste, a wealth of knowledge, and boundless creativity. Over the past few years, many underground artists have been thrust into the mainstream spotlight and lost the je ne sais quoi that made them unique. Regardless, there will always be new musicians, producers, singers, and visionaries to replace them, those who bring something novel to the table or tip a hat to their predecessors in a way that steps beyond homage and exhilarates as it did decades before.

As electronic music continues to evolve and its endless sub-genres continue to expand, so do fickle tastes, and preferences become more and more subjective with a seemingly endless list of artists to sift through. With so much music to digest, its no wonder that many artists remain under the radar. This list hopes to remedy that injustice and celebrate tracks both indie and mainstream. From the "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique to Stockholm Noir's brilliant string of darkly foreboding, electro-licked singles, here are ten selections that represent some of the more intriguing dance offerings of 2017.

10. Moullinex - “Work It Out (feat. Fritz Helder)”

Taken from Portuguese producer, DJ, and multi-instrumentalist Luis Clara Gomes' third album Hypersex, "Work It Out" like all of its surrounding companions is a self-proclaimed, "collective love letter to club culture, and a celebration of love, inclusion and difference." Dance music has always seemingly been a safe haven for "misfits" standing on the edge of the mainstream, and while EDM manufactured sheen might have taken the piss out of the scene, Hypersex still revels in that defiant, yet warm and inviting attitude.

Like a cheeky homage to Rick James and the late, great High Priest of Pop, Prince, this delectably filthy, sexually charged track with its nasty, funk-drenched bass line, couldn't have found a more flawless messenger than former Azari & III member Fritz Helder. As the radiant, gender-fluid artist sings, "you better work your shit out", this album highlight becomes an anthem for all those who refuse to bow down to BS. Without any accompanying visuals, the track is electro-funk perfection, but the video, with its ruby-red, penile glitter canon, kicks the whole thing up a notch.

9. Touch Sensitive - “Veronica”

The neon-streaked days of roller rinks and turtlenecks, leg warmers and popped polo collars have come and gone, but you wouldn't think so listening to Michael "Touch Sensitive" Di Francesco's dazzling debut Visions. The Sydney-based DJ/producer's long-awaited LP and its lead single "Lay Down", which shot to the top of the Hype Machine charts, are as retro-gazing as they are distinctly modern, with nods to everything from nu disco to slo-mo house.

Featuring a sample lifted from 90s DJ and producer Paul Johnson's "So Much (So Much Mix)," the New Jack-kissed "Veronica" owns the dance floor. While the conversational interplay between the sexed-up couple is anything but profound, there is no denying its charms, however laughably awkward. While not everything on Visions is as instantly arresting, it is a testament to Di Francesco's talents that everything old sounds so damn fresh again.

8. Gourmet - “Delicious”

Neither Gourmet's defiantly eccentric, nine-track debut Cashmere, nor its subsequent singles, "There You Go" or "Yellow" gave any indication that the South African purveyor of "spaghetti pop" would drop one of the year's sassiest club tracks, but there you have it. The Cape Town-based artist, part of oil-slick, independent label 1991's diminutive roster, flagrantly disregards expectation on his latest outing, channeling the Scissor Sisters at their most gloriously bitchy best, Ratchet-era Shamir, and the shimmering dance-pop of UK singer-producer Joe Flory, aka Amateur Best.

With an amusingly detached delivery that rivals Ben Stein's droning roll call in Ferris Bueller's Day Off , he sings "I just want to dance, and fuck, and fly, and try, and fail, and try again…hold up," against a squelchy bass line and stabbing synths. When the percussive noise of what sounds like a triangle dinner bell appears within the mix, one can't help but think that Gourmet is simply winking at his audience, as if to say, "dinner is served."

7. Pouvoir Magique - “Chalawan”

Like a psychoactive ayahuasca brew, the intoxicating "shamanic techno" of Parisian duo Pouvoir Magique's LP Disparition, is an exhilarating trip into unfamiliar territory. Formed in November of 2011, "Magic Power" is the musical project of Clément Vincent and Bertrand Cerruti, who over the years, have cleverly merged several millennia of songs from around the world with 21st-century beats and widescreen electro textures. Lest ye be worried, this is anything but Deep Forest.

In the spring of 2013, Pouvoir Magique co-founded the "Mawimbi" collective, a project designed to unite African musical heritage with contemporary soundscapes, and released two EPs. Within days of launching their label Musiques de Sphères, the duo's studio was burglarized and a hard drive with six years of painstakingly curated material had vanished. After tracking down demos they shared with friends before their final stages of completion, Clément and Bertrand reconstructed an album of 12 tracks.

Unfinished though they might be, each song is a marvelous thing to behold. Their stunning 2016 single "Eclipse," with its cinematic video, might have been one of the most immediate songs on the record, but it's the pulsing "Chalawan," with its guttural howls, fluttering flute-like passages, and driving, hypnotic beats that truly mesmerizes.

6. Purple Disco Machine - “Body Funk” & “Devil In Me” (TIE)

Whenever a bevy of guest artists appears on a debut record, it's often best to approach the project with caution. 85% of the time, the collaborative partners either overshadow the proceedings or detract from the vision of the musician whose name is emblazoned across the top of the LP. There are, however, pleasant exceptions to the rule and Tino Piontek's Soulmatic is one of the year's most delightfully cohesive offerings. The Dresden-born Deep Funk innovator, aka Purple Disco Machine, has risen to international status since 2009, releasing one spectacular track and remix after another. It should go without saying that this long-awaited collection, featuring everyone from Kool Keith to Faithless and Boris D'lugosch, is ripe with memorable highlights.

The saucy, soaring "Mistress" shines a spotlight on the stellar pipes of "UK soul hurricane" Hannah Williams. While it might be a crowning moment within the set, its the strutting discofied "Body Funk", and the album's first single, "Devil In Me", that linger long after the record has stopped spinning. The former track with its camptastic fusion of '80s Sylvester gone 1940s military march, and the latter anthem, a soulful stunner that samples the 1968 Stax hit "Private Number", and features the vocal talents of Duane Harden and Joe Killington, feels like an unearthed classic. Without a doubt, the German DJ's debut is one of the best dance records of the year.

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