TBR: 21st June
Island life from the Indian Ocean inspires eighteen tracks as a soundtrack to Réunion. This tiny rain-forested province has a rich history. Settled by slaves en-route from Madagascar, India, and Mozambique hundreds of years ago, still administered by the French, and with a huge ocean of local-lore and stories, so many genuine themes are represented by their music. InFiné have been running musical events at Réunion since the 1980s, highlighting the Island's skill base from their hub and studio. Tourism aside, this record is to be available worldwide so we can all sample the good vibes coming from this part of the world. Famous for the Les Electropicales music festival, electronic music and folk fusion has made a real impact on this community of creatives.
Patrick Manent is first up on this mammoth release. This Jako Maron remix of Kabaré Atèr begins with a sampled vocal set on repeat. It forms a rhythm that's matched by metallic sounding drums. Free-flowing vocals then flow out across the foundation, a canon of voices builds a surge of human energy. The progression builds, each new wave allows the music to grow and evolve gently. Digital bass and thumping drums give an upbeat sensation while happy free melodies fly like kites in the wide open sky. Boogzbrown is next with Timbila. It gradually pulls itself together with handclaps and distant vocals and hollers. Growling bass surges underneath in melodic phrases of rhythm while many percussive sounds rain down like pattering rain. Pulsations and tone combine to break each wave over rolling and evolving loops.
This is replaced by an effected voice making vocal sounds through a distortion. Then an ethnic pipe instrument begins to play a seductive melody. Reminiscent of snake-charming, drums with hypnotic melodies in their strikes combine with chanting vocals and strange sounds. Natural drumming and looped effects combine with tribal and buzzing vocal lines which all form a neat parcel in the middle of the room. This sprouts wings with new elements of melody and drone which fulfils a much larger space of sound. Loya's Malibar Dance is a spiritual and shamanic offering. More voices call out from the hills in reply. These mix with housey rhythms and female chants. Shakers add a vibrant colour to the music before a free form vocal begins singing a joyous melody. Taps on tubes give a wholesome presence to the drumming, a new angle to the kick drum which is low in the mix. Oh Africa by Alex Barck featuring Christine Salem is a bluesy jazzy number, fused with tribal beats and emotive sounds.
Digital hum and hand drums open for Jako Maron's Batbaté Maloya. It's a smooth and chilled number that breaks the mood for a pause and minimal episode. Light-taps and plucks gather in repeating lines which sway from side to side with the addition of effect. Droning sounds form underneath and push through like spring flowers of tone. Rich and evocative drumming gives this track a personality to listen to, less is more when the individual parts have so much character. Funky vocals come next, powerful and tribal chants bring a fusion of feels. Drums come in with heavy pounding beats, 2 step rhythms bring on an upbeat and enjoyable feel. Organ sounds play in jazzy chord strikes in all the right places while the percussion gradually evolves into churning layers of revolving beats. Gardien Volcan by Sheitan Brothers as a hymn to the volcano reminds us of the ferocity of the Earth. Explosive and full of energy, this dancing number just keeps going, gaining strength at each bar.
Digital melody and complex beats come after, their spread out in a spacious arena of sound while a jazzy warmed up bass plucks a neat melody. Then wavering tones appear in the sky like twinkling stars before a vocal swills in to finish the recipe. Ti Fock's Kom Lé Long (Do Moon's Edit) is a swinging vocal number with driving beats and vibrant looped melodics. Additions of sound keep gathering momentum for the piece as the song progresses and shifts in verses that stand out and shine. Boogzbrown is back and this time there's Cubenx alongside to bring us Butcha. Frantic hand drums play rolling rhythms while melodic instruments shrill and tight give an air of eerie charm more percussion is found soon after, and then again, repeating phrases and loops. Then it breaks down, a sludgy foot-step percussion brings out a muddy and wet feel while forest sounds and drums give a wholesome warmth. This is an adventure of a track through some thick growing bush. There's plenty to be found lurking in every corridor of sound.
Next, a stringed instrument plucks a frantic melody on one note while a spoken word poet brings on lines full of passion. Beats emerge from the shadows to allow the track to become music while the chaotic meld of underscore continues with its fiery pace. Slow moving percussion with insurgent sounds that carry subtle havoc in their composition gives Mazigador a dualistic edge. Force Indégen and Jako Maron are the two minds behind this sonic joining of intentions. Ré-Union is next, and it's by L'abuse. It begins with a soft natural theme, which revolving sonics giving a synthetic edge to the organics. A deep kick bass pierces the forest-floor with stepping pace and brings on a sense of urgency to the mix. Minimal drones in the mid-range glide across like large butterflies, each wing-beat another lick of the drum. Then, another rhythm is injected into the flow, snares on an off-beat double up the pace and reveal a marching energy. Smooth and narrow, yet full of vibrancy and colour, this track settles us down in a secluded spot.
Next is a slow, reverberating bass tone. It coils out across empty floor-space before an ethnic instrument which could be a sitar plucks an individual note. This repeating phrase is joined by chatty drums which slosh and tinkle across the growing sonic cosmos. A rock element in the drum beat gives an energy of forward while the droning ambi-ethnic undertone continues its cushioning journey of sound. New digi-sounds swing in from the sidelines, these portray a sunny melody in scratchy and vibrational jostles of pitch. Although short, Bilimbi by Agnesca is a rich and solid piece of music. Could be the single. Maya Camity for the twelve track. It's called Pandyé (Loya Remix) and begins with more tribal drumming. Multiple tones and paces combine to produce a wall of percussion. It's high and wide but there's room for smothering tones which trickle from the spaces between the brick. Then, a female singer begins to spill her soul in a culturally moving melody. Modern feels and ancient foundations allow a bridge of culture in one wave of the regal hand.
Mahavel (South Africa Dub Studio) by Zong follows on. With a classical drum-kit and funky bass, a nightclub suave glistens from the bars. Cabaret style singing in French phonics pours over like brandy over pudding. Someone lights it, and as the flames rise and curdle, the scents and aromas rise. The pulsations in the music and the brief secluded melodies behind the sultry vocals truly bring on a sense of flame and translucency. Echoes and reverb collapse the music into a medley of beats and tones before something emotional clears the air once more. Block Maloya from Labelle comes after, it opens with subtle tones and a plucky bass that knocks on the door. Then rolling tom drums give a heady and landscape sensation to the music. Dappled sonic tones drift around on gusts of air while the rock terrain builds and swells with every moving bar. Little fills and licks on what could be guitar add an illumination to an otherwise deep and earthy production.
Psychorigid now and Militan. Empty drums and toned down hats bring a sense of introspective rhythm before squelchy bass rumbles in with distortion and deep down reaches. A combination of high and low tones meet in the dirty middle with sonic blips and beeps. These warble across uneven surfaces while the persistent percussion keeps everything on the line. As the bumps in the road present in curious effects and twinges on the harmonics of the piece, an unnerving sense greets compassion as the style works to form a holistic message. Rhythm predominates while strange and sometimes awkward melody gives us a distinctive and unique flavour. This pans out into Salem Tradition who bring us Kabaré (Alma Negra Rework). This has tribal pulses and beats with chunky vocals which rhythmically sit on top as if thrones of sound. Ethnic origins with up-to-date and universal drumming in hand once more unifies these two distinct frequencies of creativity.
To finish off, a catchy drum beat begins the penultimate offering. This jiggles around on a tiny plinth while extra-sensory sounds begin to churn and create noise in the sides. Like a ring of lamps illuminating a column, the track builds on foundations of minimal yet pushy composition. A synth then pulls up alongside with full and juicy chords which adds a degree of tonic to the cocktail. Lumps of lemon with congealing colours and tastes brink on the delectable in a disco-house style trample through funky beats. J-Zeus with Koloni is a basic thumbs up to the meaning of having fun. Perhaps there's something I'm missing? Kwalud ends the album with Angel Choirs. It grows in amplitude with a heartbeat style drum. A vocal speaking symbols another rhythm which lays over the top in a neat pattern. Zapping sounds in the sub-frequency also reveal a much deeper and motivational feel. Choppy beats and fluorescent melody shimmer in tranquil forest floor spaces.
We truly get a feel for the Island of Réunion with this broad selection of various local talents. Each addition carries a flavour of the local spirit that carries through from track to track while the individual minds behind them add unique and tangibly enjoyable parts of their own identifiable selves.
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