Perceptive Travel World Music Reviews
October 2014 - By Laurence Mitchell

In this issue: A two-CD set bookending a band's 25 years, "folktronic" music from South America, a "world-jazz-folk ensemble," and beloved Spanish/Colombian singer Marta Gómez.





310 Lunes
Lo'Jo

We say: A welcome re-release of a rare early work alongside a brass reworking of the Lo'Jo oevre.

This two-CD set from these innovative French globalistas is their first new release since 2012. Well, sort of—the first CD here is an instrumental reworking of some of Lo'Jo's repertoire by a five-piece brass band augmented by guest artists that include American trombonist Roswell Rudd, Turkish clarinetist Hasan Yarimdunia, and Magic Malik and Erik Truffaz, who are both grand fromages on the French jazz scene. The stripped-down approach—just brass and woodwind—helps bring out the melodic loveliness of the tunes to create a sort of world chamber music that you could imagine featuring in the soundtracks of, as yet-unscripted, art house movies. This is not to say that 310 Lunes is merely incidental music in any way. Rather, it is a sequence of musical vignettes that flow almost seamlessly into one other. "Adorate Child," the second track, with Eastern flutes and deeply resonant bassoon, is particularly evocative, while "Kalo Moon" utilizes call and response brass figures that seem to invoke a parallel universe New Orleans.

The second disc is a re-release of Lo'Jo's first recording The International Courabou, which, dating from 1989 when the band were mostly performing as part of a street theatre group, was only ever released privately. Here it is remastered but unadulterated; featuring Lo'Jo's longest serving members: vocalist and keyboard player Denis Pean and violinist Richard Bourreau. Twenty-five years on, it is still well worth listening to, especially as it is unknown to even most dedicated Lo'Jo aficionados. Tellingly, the signature Lo'Jo sound is already clearly identifiable here—perhaps a little more world-jazz orientated than it is today, especially on "A tribute to Black," although the rhythm section is not quite as fluid and tight as that of the band's current line-up.

The title, in case you were wondering, reflects the number of lunar months that has elapsed since Lo'Jo stepped into the world in 1989 with their first recording. Twenty-five years on, here's to the next 310.






Amansara
Chancha Via Circuito

We say: Digital cumbia for groovy shamans.

Chancha Via Circuito ("The pig on the circular train") is the name that people from Buenos Aires give to the train that connects the southern parts of the Argentine capital. It is also the moniker that Argentinean producer Pedro Canale has chosen for himself. This is his third album.

Amansara is electronic music with a difference: a blend of primal jungle rhythms and futuristic electronic beats, "folktronic" if you will, that embraces a range of South American styles—Brazilian, Paraguayan and Argentine—and spins a new interpretation of these in the way that the Gotan Project reinvented tango for the digital age a decade ago. The result can be spacey and slightly unsettling on occasion, especially on songs like "Jardines," which has a dreamy guest vocal by Lido Pimienta. Another noteworthy guest vocalist is Miriam Garcia on the haunting, tribal rhythm-driven "Coplita," which has already been released as a single.

Amansara is a hypnotic blend of the familiar and strange. Despite its electronic base, much of this comes across as surprisingly organic-sounding, like mutant marimba music—the sort of thing that might be the result if Kraftwerk had emerged from an isolated Amazonian clearing rather than the industrial Rhine Valley. On tracks like "Sauce," things can seem deceptively simple, almost children's nursery rhyme-like, but this somehow makes it all the more engaging, albeit in a vaguely disconcerting sort of way. Effectively Amansara sounds like electronic dance music that has been specially commissioned for hip rainforest shamans. The cover artwork, which alludes to this shamanic theme, is appealingly psychedelic too.






Global Shuffle
Grand Fatilla

We say: From Boston to Bulgaria via southern Italy.

The Boston-based quartet, Grand Fatilla, describes itself as a world-jazz-folk ensemble, which probably covers all the bases. Certainly this is pan-global in many ways—pan-European gypsy anyway—and Global Shuffle seems an apt title. The musical themes here shift smoothly from East European gypsy dances via southern Italian melodies to Argentinean tangos. At the helm, melodically speaking, are accordionist Roberto Cassan and mandolinist Matt Glover, who are ably supported by a rhythm section that consists of Mike Rivard on double bass and Fabio Pirozzolo on percussion and occasional vocals.

Global Shuffle kicks off with "Cigansko Oro," which brings to mind the sort of wild gypsy music that Bulgarian Ivo Papasov used to perform in the early days of commercial "world music." The following track, "Five of Swords," penned by bass player Mike Rivard, who doubles on sentir here, has a vague Moroccan/Middle Eastern feel with rattling percussion alongside the bass. The Bulgarian influence re-emerges once more later on with the traditional dance tune "Sandanskla Oro," which is particularly lively with excellent mandolin playing and one of those leg-twistingly complex time signatures that Bulgarians seem to love. Elsewhere, there are plenty of Italian-themed tunes—the traditional "Alla Carpinese" and Cassan's own "Domenie."

All together, this is an enjoyable collection of well-played tunes, although a similarity of pace through much of the recording—the exceptions being Cassan's slow tango, "Milonga para Lucia," and "Little Church," the final track—tends to render it rather samey in terms of dynamics. Nevertheless the musicianship is consistently good throughout and this is clearly a great band to witness performing live.






Contigo—Songs with Latin American Soul
Marta Gómez

We say: Sweet-voiced Colombian singer covering a range of Latin American bases.

Marta Gómez is a Barcelona-based Colombian singer and songwriter who has been performing and recording for well over a decade now. Contigo is a compilation of some of her best work that takes in a range of Latin-American styles from Peruvian landó to Colombian cumbia, Cuban son and Chilean cueca.

Gómez's voice is clear and sweet, although not lacking in emotional warmth and expression. The instrumental backing here has a sympathetic, understated feel too—just guitar, bass, flutes, and delicate percussion, with the occasional appearance of charango and pan pipes on more Andean indigena-flavored songs like "Carnavaliando". Scattered among the Latin American material are also five songs based on Federico Garcia Lorca poems: "Arbolé, Arbolé," which trips along brightly with just drums and chorus, "Gacela del Amor Desesperado,""Casida de las Palomas Oscuras," "La Soleá" and the moody, flamenco-tinged "Granada". Pleasant and undemanding perhaps, Contigo is still a highly enjoyable listen even for those who do not understand Spanish.






Laurence Mitchell is a British travel writer and photographer with a special interest in transition zones, cultural frontiers and forgotten places that are firmly off the beaten track. He is author of the Bradt Travel Guides to Serbia, Belgrade and Kyrgyzstan, Slow Norfolk & Suffolk and a regular contributor to hidden europe magazine. His website can be seen at www.laurencemitchell.com and his blog at eastofelveden.wordpress.com.

See the last round of music reviews from Laurence Mitchell.

Also in this issue:

310 Lunes

Buy 310 Lunes online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



Amansara

Buy Amansara online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK





Global Shuffle

Buy Global Shuffle online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



Contigo - Songs with Latin American Soul

Buy Contigo - Songs with Latin American Soul online here:
Amazon US
Amazon Canada
Amazon UK



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