Various: The Rough Guide to Flamenco

Ojos de Brujo

Passion in a tidier form... that's flamenco for you.


The Rough Guide to Flamenco

Label: World Music Network
US Release Date: 2007-08-17
UK Release Date: 2007-08-30

The first Rough Guide to Flamenco came out in 1998. In those days World Music Network looked less like a juggernaut than it does now and the albums they released were almost ridiculously general. There was The Rough Guide to West Africa (which later they broke down into Rough Guides to Mali and Guinea, Senegal and Gambia, Nigeria and Ghana, the Sahara, and the oldies disc, West African Gold), The Rough Guide to India (later, Rough Guides to Ravi Shankar, Mohd. Rafi, etc), The Rough Guide to Brazil (now Brazilian Hip Hop, Rio de Janeiro, Samba) and so on. This second edition of Flamenco comes a year after the Rough Guide to Flamenco Nuevo, suggesting that someone listened to the flailing Nuevo, winced, and decided to go back to the drawing board.

The label's co-founder Phil Stanton compiled the first edition. This time the job has gone to Jan Fairley. According to the CV on her website she writes for fRoots and Songlines, practices Taoist Tai Chi, and once put together a three-disc Flamenco compilation for Nascente. Call her now if you have work that needs doing; the woman knows her stuff. This new compilation is not like the old one. I'm guessing that the difference comes down to a combination of two things. The first is obvious in that two different compilers have two different tastes and if you ask them to pick the best of anything they will choose two different sets.

The second thing is time. New groups have formed, new albums have come out and Flamenco has grown in popularity. Consequently, Fairley has got more music to choose from than Stanton ever did. Flamenco, like other forms of folk music in other countries, suffered when rock 'n' roll floated over the borders back around the middle of the 1900's, but after stumbling and shaking for a while it has managed to get back on its feet.

Stanton's album had a tough presence. He liked the sound of physical effort, heels on the ground, a palm smacking the body of a guitar, speed and clapping hands. His choices are suggestive of something muscular; full of dust and dirt, untidiness, and the mystical, cleansing pain of duende. Fairley is neater. She's an indoors woman. The guitars and handclaps and powerful voices are still here, (it's not as if you could get rid of them and still call it flamenco with a straight face), but they're being aimed in a new, less messy direction. The two Guides share some of the same musicians, with one track repeated, Tomatito and Camerón's "La Voz del Tiempo". The easiest way to assess the differences between them is to compare the two songs from Tomasa La Macanita.

Gerardo Nunez

"Bulería De La Mocinta", La Macanita's song from the first edition, is fast, forceful, and sudden. The singer vibrates hoarsely over rough clapping. A male audience keeps her company. In Fairley's compilation the clapping melts under a smooth guitar and the hoarseness of La Macanita's voice is less emphatic. The expression of strength in her bulería becomes "sensually slow", as the compiler points out in the notes.

So if Stanton chooses the raw energy that leaves you gasping then Fairley seeks the more refined and complex. She's the light, complicated laugh, he's the bark of the older man. Actually that's misleading as he chooses longer tracks than she does. There's nothing on the second edition that comes near the length of the first edition's seven-and-a-half-minute Chano Lobato number, "A Quien Contarle". Lobato creates empty spaces and then gradually consents to fill them with tense shivers of guitar, as if the sea is slowly brimming over the rim of a rockpool and finally spilling into it, drawing back, then rushing in again on the next wave. Lobato's rough voice feels around like the voice of a recovering mute realising his vowels.

La Macanita

Fairley's equivalent of Lobato's long exercise would be Miguel Poveda's "Tierra del Calma" which similarly stretches the vowels out but trims them into shape at the ends. The idea of a lingering guitar is sketched in and then the song moves on. The whole album is like this, it has the idea of flamenco without the agonised prolongations that lead to passionate explosions. It has the idea of passion, but in a tidier form.

I'm probably making it sound weak, but it isn't, not really. Just different. Fairley has more music to get through and less time to dawdle over pauses. That's how it sounds. This album is ten minutes shorter than the first one and manages to cover a wider terrain. She leaves out Carmen Linares, which is unexpected and a shame. Pata Negra, whose role as pioneering flamenco rockers used to garner them a reasonable amount of attention, have been displaced by the more up-to-date sound of Ojos de Brujo, who are represented by "Sultanas de Merkaíllo", from their last album, Techari. The clumsier hybrids and fusion-for-the-sake-of-it people were siphoned away by The Rough Guide to Flamenco Nuevo. We've been left with a taut, toned album, no-nonsense, shapely, cutting to the chase, always flamenco, but new with each track. The Rough Guide to Flamenco (Second Edition) is summed up best somehow by Martirio's "Romance de la Rosa", a strong and delicate piece of work that never quite reaches the extremes of passion to which it refers.


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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