Lucid Culture

JAZZ, CLASSICAL MUSIC AND THE ARTS IN NEW YORK CITY

CD Review: Les Triaboliques – rivermudtwilight

This is one of those rare albums whose title perfectly describes it. With an earthy, after-the-rain feel, it’s the brainchild of a trio of old British punks. Justin Adams is the least punk of the three – lead guitarist in Jah Wobble‘s band, collaborator with Tinariwen and Juldeh Camara (and recently with that has-been 70s rock guy), he’s one of the world’s foremost desert blues players. Lu Edmonds was in the Damned and then the Mekons, eventually took the same route Joe Strummer and dozens of his contemporaries would take into world music and is adept at a museum’s worth of stringed instruments. Ben Mandelson was in Magazine and would go on to found Globe Style Records, home to such diverse acts as Varttina and the Klezmatics. The debut collaboration between the three is a frequently  mesmerizing, otherworldly blend of desert blues, Balkan songs, vintage Americana, Britfolk and a gypsy caravan of styles from around the globe. It’s one of the best releases of the year in any style of music.

The first and last tracks are the most hypnotic, the former clanging like a stripped-down Tinariwen until a catchy, elliptical theme finally emerges, the latter a breathtaking amalgam of styles from Middle Eastern improvisation (played as a guitar taqsim by Adams) leading into a big blue-sky theme similar to early Pat Metheny. Spiced with guest Salah Dawson Miller’s guiro, Gulaguajira sets a vivid Russian prisoner’s lament atop a latin groove. The lush mesh of a phalanx of jangling, clanking, plinking, thumping stringed instruments – guitar, mandolin, saz and cumbus (Turkish lutes) and others is rich with suspenseful overtones, particularly on the tricky, sidestepping Afsaduni (I Have Been Corrupted). The single best song here is the eerie, atmospheric nocturne Shine a Light, an antiwar vocal number intoned ominously by Adams.

Heavy metal disguised as dusk-core, as the label calls it, the title track is surprisingly effective and psychedelic even if it kicks the hypnotic vibe to the curb. There’s also a stark Balkan lament, an even sparser one-chord jam on the old folksong Jack O’Diamonds (no relation to the Fairport Convention version), and a delightful John Lee Hooker style boogie flavored with exotic instruments (only the British would come up with some thing like that). The only misstep is a pointless cover of Please Don’t Let Me Be Misunderstood which owes more to the odious Santa Esmeralda than to the Animals. This is one of those albums that’s as fun to hear as it must have been to record. If you can’t wait til Tinariwen’s new one comes out, this will do just fine.

September 8, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | Leave a comment

CD Review: Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara – Tell No Lies

Last year’s collaboration between Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara, Soul Science (very favorably reviewed here), was more in the vein of desert blues. This time around, Adams brought a mixtape with a lot of rock on it to the sessions for the new album: he’d play something for Camara, who’d record it on his cellphone and then come up with a complementary part. Perhaps as a result, this rocks a lot harder, yet retains the hypnotic, otherworldly vibe of their first collaboration. There seems to be a more improvisational quality here based on a call-and-response chemistry between the British guitarist and the Gambian riti fiddler who, unbeknownst to each other, were fans of each others’ work before they ever met.

The album kicks off with Sahara, insistently hypnotic with layers of briskly incisive blues riffs, Camara singing a repetitive chorus in his native tongue. The second cut Tonio Yima has sort of a Texas boogie feel with big guitar screams from Adams, a repeater-box vibe straight out of How Soon Is Now by the Smiths and an amusing lyric by Camara, a guy at a party disingenuously telling someone not to stress out too much if he gets stepped on or spat on. It’s a big party, after all!

Over a burning Bo Diddley beat, Kele Kele (No Passport No Visa) rails against the exploitation of undocumented immigrants. Fulani Coochie Man rails against the hoarding and misappropriation of foreign aid to Africa: the textures of Camara’s fluid blues runs on the fiddle against Adams’ walking bassline are delicious. There’s also plenty of desert blues here along with a track that opens with a variation on an older New Order riff, a song that sounds like La Bamba gone garage rock and then to Africa, one with a calypso feel and the album’s concluding cut, Futa Jalo, a pretty, gently watery acoustic guitar know-your-roots number with swirls of electric guitar in the background and warm, fluttery, almost saxophone-derived lines from Camara. Fans of all of the above styles will find the album in its entirety richly rewarding. Justin Adams and Juldeh Camara play the Lincoln Center Festival on July 21 at 8 PM.

June 16, 2009 Posted by | Music, music, concert, review, Reviews | , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments