Friday, February 22, 2013

CD Review: DJ Drez' '4AM Plum Mood'

DJ Drez
4AM Plum Mood
Black Swan Sounds

DJ Drez creates a new world of atmospheric dub and downtempo delight. The music is rich with laid-back grooves, instrumental bliss, and dreamy sequences that are anything but hectic or chaotic. The smooth and slow tunes are perfect for an evening of relaxation. The trippy melodies are steeped in world music wanderings over the past several years. The ambient elements are at the forefront here. The exotic chill-out music is ideal for anyone interested in new age, space, atmospheric, quiet dub, and contemporary instrumental music with a bit of fusion thrown in. This is perfect for the lounge lizard in your family. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Mahala Rai Banda's 'Balkan Reggae'

Mahala Rai Banda
Balkan Reggae
Asphalt Tango Records

The Balkan beatmasters, Mahala Rai Banda, have their music reinvented and remixed by a host of talented world music artists, including Gregory Fabulous, Nick Manasseh, La Cherga, Adisa Zvekic, Mad Professor, G-Vibes, Errol Linton, Vibronics, Koby Israelite, Annique, Kanka, and Kyle Sicarius. The modern beatmasters provide an electrified dance sound to the already amped-up songs. The music celebrates Jamaica's fiftieth anniversary of independence, so the sound is somewhat reggae-tinged. The instrumental and vocal tunes are strong throughout. The music is upbeat and danceable to say the least. There is a nice combination of dub, dance, and electronica that is centered around a Balkan foundation. Nothing is amiss here. Groove out with Mahala Rai Banda's classic tunes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Skatalites' 'Walk With Me'

Walk With Me
Moon Dust Records

Based in Jamaica, Skatalites have been amazing crowds since the 1960's. Today, they release yet another album in their historic music-making process. The repertoire is composed of Lester Sterling on alto sax, Doreen Shaffer on vocals, Azemobo Audu on tenor sax, Andrae Murchison on trombone, Kevin Batchelo on trumpet, Val Douglas on bass guitar, Natty Frenchy on gutiar, Cameron Greenlee on keyboards, Lloyd Knibb on drums, and Trevor Thompson on drums. In addition, there are guest musicians on vocals and trumpet. This is Lloyd Knibb's last recording before his passing in 2012. There are enticing reggae-induced and jazz-inflected tunes of instrumental heaven that are not to be missed. The heady rhythms and punchy horns are unmatched by other groups. Fans of Caribbean, Latin, and Jamaican bands will love the groovy tunes. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Koby Israelite's 'Blues From Elsewhere'

Koby Israelite
Blues From Elsewhere
Asphalt Tango Records

The bluesy side of world music is eloquently captured on accordion, percussion, and melodies straight out of the Balkan region. There is a heavy dose of rock instrumentals, too. The Israel-born Koby does not feel discouraged about mixing different genres of music to create a pumped-up Balkan rock sound with a hint of Ladino or Klezmer punk-funk. Whatever it is called, the music speaks volumes--especially when turned up! At any rate, the music is steeped in rock-driven folk music with an element of Balkan passion thrown in for flavoring. There are some more solemn moments, but the album as a whole is energetic, upbeat, and driven by multinational charm. Everyone will notice the music contains an edge. The sixteen tracks represent Koby's ideal perception of what blues music should be--wherever it is found. ~ Matthew Forss

Saturday, February 16, 2013

CD Review: Debashish Bhattacharya's 'Beyond The Ragasphere'

Debashish Bhattacharya
Beyond The Ragasphere
World Music Network

India's international superstar, Debashish Bhattacharya, is a lap steel aficionado, as well as an innovative musical performer combining styles of jazz, funk, fusion, and folk. The experimental nature of Beyond The Ragasphere stems from guest musicians, John McLaughlin and dobro king, Jerry Douglas. Of course, there are Indian flavors from the tabla, flute, keybaord, hand percussion, and various drums. However, the improvisational guitar sounds and reverberating string drones makes Beyond The Ragasphere a memorable and invaluable recording. There are even some vocals on a few tracks provided by Debashish's daughter, Anandi Bhattacharya. Anyone with an understanding of traditional raga forms will appreciate the 'non-traditional' approaches here. Fans of Indian jazz, fusion, and world music will love Debashish's new recording. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, February 15, 2013

CD Review: The Battle of Santiago's 'Followed By Thousands'

The Battle of Santiago
Followed By Thousands
MWPC Records

The Battle of Santiago is a Canadian band that incorporates jazz rhythms, Latin horns, and alternative contemporary musical leanings that span an entire continent or two. The music takes on an almost Afro-Cuban tone in places, but the diverse musical roots of Latin, hip hop, jazz, rock, dub, and experimental crop up throughout. The heady beats, rhythms, and melodies are very intriguing and contain a rather contemporary approach to instrumental music-making. However, fans of Latin beat, experimental Afro-Cuban concoctions, and urban new age will love Followed By Thousands no matter where they (or you) are from. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Harnam's 'A Fearless Heart'

A Fearless Heart

Harnam brings us poignant kirtan and yoga tunes on his latest release, A Fearless Heart. Harnam is a vocalist and guitarist. Harnam is joined by Ram Dass Khalsa on vocals, guitars, slide guitar, bass, piano, keyboards, percussion, and programming. Lakshmi Light is a guest vocalist, along with Siri Kartar Singh on pedal steel. These light mantras are blissful, peaceful, and memorable tunes of spiritual pleasure. There are seven long tracks with lush melodies, sparkling guitar work, and angelic programming that is earthy, authentic, and natural to a tee. The Sanskrit songs are often repeated throughout each song to create a higher sense of awareness. Everyone should be aware of Harnam’s musical gifts. Let me introduce Harnam to the world! ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Nilson Matta's 'Black Orpheus'

Nilson Matta
Black Orpheus

Nilson Matta reimagines the music of  the play, Orfeu da Conceicao, and a film, Black Orpheus--both of which are Brazilian. Nilson is a Brazilian bassist and producer. The music of Brazilian is varied and often jazz-inspired. In this case, Black Orpheus is littered with jazz inflections that border on session jazz, smooth jazz, and contemporary instrumental. There is a heavy Brazilian flavor, danceable bossa nova embellishments, and giddy rhythms that are very moving. The classic jazz references to the 1950’s are incredibly relevant here with scintillating guitar work, effervescent percussion, and soulful, albeit sultry, vocals. There are seventeen tracks in all and several tunes are attributed to Antonio Carlos Jobim. Other tunes are created by Luiz Bonfa, V. de Moraes, and Nilson himself. Anyone familiar with Brazilian jazz—and classic Brazilian jazz especially—will love Nilson’s homage to a nostalgic and unforgettable musical era. Buy Black Orpheus today! ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Khat Thaleth'

Various Artists
Khat Thaleth
Stronghold Sound

Khat Thaleth is a twenty-three track release of global hip-hop, rap, and dub music that primarily surrounds itself with the Arab world. Most of the musicians featured on this compilation hail from Tunisia, Palestine, Jordan, Syria, Lebanon, and Egypt. The album title refers to a ‘third track’, which is a metaphor for a third way of looking at things. This is a strong, political recording with in-your-face-commentary and hip, exuberant groves with contemporary instrumentation and urban beats. This is pure, unfiltered hip-hop music with life-affirming qualities and authentic lyrical deliveries. A sampling of the featured musicians on the album include Touffar, Rami GB, Yaseen, Abdullah Miniawy, Al Haqq, Armada Bizerta, Mohamad Antar, and many others. Anyone with an interest in Arab rap, hip-hop, and urban music will love the upbeat, head-bobbing and toe-tapping melodies and rhythms of Khat Thaleth. The liner notes are mostly in Arabic. ~ Matthew Forss 

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Vintage France'

Various Artists
Vintage France

The new Putumayo release, Vintage France, celebrates vintage French songs and musicians. There are twelve songs in all, which include twelve different singers, such as Juliette Greco, Patrick Nugier, Daniel Roure, Jean-Claude Laudat, Philippe Gautier, Asier Etxeandia, and many others. The music is highly-addictive and extremely pleasant throughout. There are whispy violins, classical piano, upbeat jazz melodies, and French pop constructions that are charming, easy-listening, and nostalgic. The rich rhythmic and melodic structures are especially appealing, along with the male and female vocals. There is a sense of class, exquisitive taste, and cafe sounds that certainly and adequately celebrate French chanson traditions. The not-so-common musicians on this album are not especially well-known in other parts of the globe, so do not expect to find Carla Bruni, Francois Hardy, Patricia Kaas, and Edith Piaf on this one. Nevertheless, I am always impressed by the musical concoctions discovered by the folks at Putumayo. This one ranks high up there. What a surprise! ~ Matthew Forss

Update - New Email For Contact

Hello listeners and readers,

I would like to alert you all my email has now changed to: worldmusicman2013(at)yahoo(dot)com. Please direct all questions, queries, and correspondence to this email from now on.

The old email is no longer working.

Matthew Forss

Friday, February 1, 2013

CD Review: Fractal Cat's 'The Eye In The Dawn'

Fractal Cat
The Eye In The Dawn

Fractal Cat is a Baltimore-based band that uses psychedelic melodies and rock structures with angelic male vocals to create a spacious, trippy, and rocked-out recording of pure musical pleasure. The poetic lyrics and extended rock outros are characteristics of jam music from the 1960’s and 70’s. However, you better shed your bell-bottoms and corduroy, because these guys are here in the present era. The real charm of the music is the vocal arrangements by Keith Jones and Miles Gannett. There are groovy bass lines, synth embellishments, sparkling harp sounds, and ambulating guitars. “Home” contains soft and loud moments, but the vocals are never over-used or beyond the natural vocal ranges. The end of the song contains a wicked bass, guitar, and percussion outro. “Foxfire” is an up-tempo song with more electric guitar spunk than the previous track. “Some Angel” opens with a dreamy harp and acoustic guitar that melds into a percussion-rich, folksy ballad seemingly coming out of the 1970’s pop scene. The short song is one of the best songs composed in any genre or era—bar none. The harp medley mid-song is a great homage to throwback folk music. “Autumnal Days” contains a beautiful instrumental set-up with choppy guitars, great horn sounds, and a jaunty rhythm with vocals akin to The Gufs. In a similar manner, “Little By Little” contains great guitar riffs, vocals, and more structured chorus with guitar work resembling Oasis. The psychedelic blurbs and electronic tonal qualities are evident on “Nightshade” and “The Calling.” These two tracks could be slightly influenced by the electronic band, Air. At any rate, fans of contemporary psychedelic rock and pop with some electronic and folk wanderings should check out Fractal Cat today! Get Fractal(led)—I did! ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Mop Mop's 'Isle of Magic'

Mop Mop
Isle of Magic
Agogo Records

Mop Mop is Andrea Benini, Anthony Joseph, and Fred Wesley on the new album, Isle of Magic. The music was recorded in Germany and Italy, but it retains a global element of free jazz, fusion, funk, Latin, and new age music with Caribbean tones, as well as American electronica. The music is largely instrumental with some poetic, spoken words. The scintillating steel drum and fluid grooves are highly-infectious. There are danceable tracks and tracks to space out to. The eclectic and exotic rhythms are fresh and highlighted by the likes of Trinidad-born poet and singer Anthony Joseph, funk legend Fred Wesley, and the lovely, Finnish-Egyptian vocalist, Sara Sayed. There are a variety of flutes, sax, percussion, and vibraphone vibes that make the album shine with global flavor. This is great world jazz, funk, fusion, and dance music with an analog slice of heaven. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: SLV's 'Dig Deeper'

Dig Deeper

SLV, otherwise known as, Sandra Lilia Velasquez (of Pistolera-fame), releases her first solo debut EP. Dig Deeper contains three songs in English and one in Spanish. The uppity, Pistolera band music is shed here, as many of the tunes are more laid-back and refined. Meshell Ndegeocello adds bass accompaniment, while Joe Moore plays guitar, Sean Dixon & Mark Giuliana play drums, Sebastian Guerrero plays percussion, and Jason Lindner performs on keyboards and piano. The groovy tunes are top-notch and very fluid. This is down-tempo, Latin music at its finest. Though, there are more jazz influences than Latin. Nevertheless, SLV succeeds with this short, but great release. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Alpha Yaya Diallo's 'Imme'

Alpha Yaya Diallo
Jericho Beach Music

Alpha Yaya Diallo hails from Guinea, but is based in Canada. The performer’s sixth release, Imme, is without a doubt, one of the best. The eleven track release is littered with Afro-pop melodies and rhythms every fan of African music will love. The extremely catchy songs contain a plethora of strings, percussion, and vocals throughout. You will hear violin, viola, guitars, harmonica, mandolin, bass, n’goni, balafon, keyboards, and drums. This music is steeped in Conakry culture with lively rhythms and joyous vocals. Anyone with an interest in West African music will love the music of Alpha Yaya Diallo. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Okapi Guitar Band's 'Plenty'

Okapi Guitar Band

Australia’s Okapi Guitar Band is a truly world music act creating music that spans numerous countries and continents with ease. The giddy guitar rhythms, vocals, lap steel, bass, pedal steel, dundun, keyboard, drumkit, congas, doumbek, cowbell, trumpet, trombone, sax, and other instruments make up the band’s unique sound. “Man In The Fluoro Vest” seems like a concoction brewed by the Cambodian/American band, Dengue Fever. The psychedelic melody and quirky lyrics is a winner. The folksy “Cut And Run” is anything but cut and dry, since its galloping tune reflects a little Afro-Caribbean and Congolese presence. Plenty is aptly-titled, because there are many reasons to love this album. Each track is different and seems to reflect a different part of the globe. The nearly one-hour-and-ten-minute length is definitely worth the money. There are tropical rhythms, Latin touches, African brilliance, and Aussie splendor that is not to be missed. This is a great album for world music or fusion fans. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Talitha Mackenzie's 'Spiorad'

Talitha Mackenzie
Sonas Multimedia

Talitha Mackenzie’s 1996 release, Spiorad, is reissued here. There are eleven toe-tapping tunes spanning the gamut from Balkan, Gaelic, Breton, Caribbean, and reggae-type music. “Fionnaghuala” is a Caribbean-tinged, Gaelic song that is rather robust and energetic. The lively Breton song, “Changerais-tu?” is a steady melody with reggae-infused beats, despite the clear Breton references. The Scottish melodies are rather contemporary with loads of majestic percussion, reeds, horns, dance elements, and beautiful instrumental accompaniment. Anyone familiar with Scottish or Gaelic music will find enjoyment throughout Spiorad. Fans of folk will rejoice, too. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Latin Noir'

Various Artists
Latin Noir

Latin Noir is a Latin music gem with obscure rhythms, noises, and melodies originating from Argentina, Cuba, Colombia, USA, and Mediterranean regions. There is a mix of instrumental and vocal music. The vocal music is in English, Spanish, and French. The baker’s dozen album contains rich rhythms with lively percussion and melodies with Afro-Caribbean and indigenous cultural roots. Anyone familiar with Latin jazz, South American music, Caribbean, and Latin American music will love the tracks on Latin Noir. There are quieter tunes, but the music is generally upbeat. The breezy guitar work of “Dejame Me Que Te Lleve” is especially intriguing, along with the Cuban vocal delivery. There are tracks by Watcha Clan, Eddie Bobe, Chango Spasiuk, Alfredo Gutierrez, and many others. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Plena Libre's 'Corazon'

Plena Libre
GN Musica

Plena Libre is a vibrant dance group to come out of Puerto Rico. The band presents us with plena and bomba dance beats with an equal dose of meringue, songo, Latin jazz, and some rock elements. The energetic music is characteristic of many groups in Latin America and the Caribbean. The rich percussion, horns, vocals, and melodies are never boring or lacking enthusiasm. The lush harmonies and upbeat jibaro grooves are something to enjoy. The director, Gary Nunez, plays the bass, while others play various hand drums, guiro, keyboards, congas, piano, timbale, and trombones. The fluid melodies are indicative of Brazilian samba, but the music is definitely inspired by the danceable rhythms of the Caribbean. Corazon is the heart and soul of Puerto Rican music. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: Spiro's 'Kaleidophonica'

Real World

Spiro is a British band that incorporates folk instruments, but the group is anything but folk. There is a strong kaleidoscopic element of whirling violins, acoustic guitar, mandolin, accordion, and cello, which showcase a strong, instrumental medley throughout. The contemporary folk music is unique and fresh without ho-hum melodies and banal tendencies. The instrumental delights do not include vocals, which lets the instruments sing out with tonal pleasures. There is an element of dance, classical, and new age influences that cannot be ignored. The writhing, driving rhythms and melodies may seem a bit redundant, but that is part of the charm. The songs whirl and swirl the listener into a super folk world of imaginative bliss. Spiro is not to be missed. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Soname's 'Natural Mind'

Natural Mind
Enja Records

Soname Yangchen is a vocalist from Tibet that draws upon traditional instrumental melodies and a seemingly never-ending supply of vocal fortitude. The pleasant melodies are accompanied by guitar, cello, kora, Tibetan lute, and drums for a truly serene and enticing set of songs. The music is more melodic and structured than another Tibetan songstress—Yungchen Lhamo. At any rate, the music is relatively contemporary with folk music influences and some pop elements, but this is not rock music or dance music. The thirteen songs are pleasant to the ears. There are also moments that are more reflective of Scandinavian folk music. All in all, Soname strikes a nice balance between traditional and contemporary compositions without sounding too overt. It should be easy to make up your mind for Natural Mind. ~ Matthew Forss  

CD Review: David Newman & Krishna Venkatesh's 'Re-Bliss: Stars Revisited'

David Newman & Krishna Venkatesh
Re-Bliss: Stars Revisited
White Swan Records

David Newman, also known as Durga Das, is a talented kirtan chant artist from Philadelphia. Krishna Venkatesh is a New York-based composer, producer, yoga teacher, and former electronic band member for Think Tree. Relying on a mix of funk, jazz, and eclectic electronic music that is driven by the soul and an inner bliss, Krishna adds a variety of groovy textures to the new album. David adds vocals, guitars, keyboards, and percussion. The eight long tracks are inspirational, relaxing, and meditative with a steady melody and trip-hop/jazz-inspired embellishments. The contemporary compositions combine a bit of dance grooves, electronic music, and blissful adventures that are catchy and void of faults. The duo showcase what really can be done when two blissful hearts come together and play music with a deeply meditative groove. Now is the time to bliss yourself. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: DJ Sun's 'One Hundred'

DJ Sun
One Hundred

Houston, Texas-based DJ and music aficionado, DJ Sun, releases a hit list of nineteen exciting tracks that span the globe. The music is highly danceable, but not too fast relaxation is out of the question. The trippy grooves and electronic samples with lively vocals are adventurous and captivating. There are loads of instrumental embellishments from horns to harps and everything in-between. The sonic structures reflect a global fusion of sorts that are great for the dance hall or bedroom. The deep sounds and sketchy scratches are somewhat reminiscent of Royskopp. This music is richly-textured from global wanderings and unique, down-tempo lounge sounds. Anyone with an interest in electronic music, groove music, down-tempo, hip-hop instrumentals, and soul-funk will love DJ Sun. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Oli Rockberger's 'Old Habits'

Oli Rockberger
Old Habits
Oli Road Records

The moving and pleasant musical concoctions of New York-based singer, songwriter, producer, keyboardist, and arranger are cleverly showcased on Oli's sophomore release, Old Habits. The vocals are indicative of John Mayer, but the musical structure is more mature and jazzy than typical rock or pop music. The jazz, blues, gospel, and roots musical influences are highly developed and a pleasure to experience. The piano and harmonica add a jazzy addition to the music, along with bass, drums, keyboards, and the beautifully-executed Fender Rhodes embellishments. There are ten tracks in all, but "Never Grow Old" is repeated twice--once as a vocal track and the other as an instrumental reprise. The breezy opener, "Live A Lie," is a great tune with brushy percussion, sparkling electronic tones, and rippling bass lines. The entire album is marked with lush melodies, plaintive piano, light percussion, infectious grooves, and moving rhythms that are littered with musical goodness. Nothing is left out here. Old Habits is a new album that will never get old with each listen. ~ Matthew Forss