Tuesday, August 26, 2014

CD Review: 3-CD SET - Various Artists' 'Real World 25'

Various Artists
Real World 25 [3 CD]
Real World

Real World 25 is a three-CD set covering some of the best classics released from the label's two-hundred-plus recordings over the years. The third CD features music picked solely by fans. There are gems on here from groups including, Daby Toure, JuJu, Big Blue Ball, Sheila Chandra, Papa Wemba, Yungchen Lhamo, Spiro, Sevara Nazarkhan, and others. The other CD's feature music from Pape & Cheikh, Toumast, Daude, Farafina, Guo Yue, Syriana, Varttina, Mamer, Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan, Peter Gabriel, Adrian Sherwood, Ayub Ogada, Hukwe Zawose, Joji Hirota, and many others. There is music from areas as diverse as Uzbekistan, Burkina Faso, Sardinia, Zimbabwe, China, Ethiopia, Kenya, Pakistan, Uganda, Tibet, and other adventurous places. Simply put; every song is a hit and it is on this compilation for a reason. Anyone into world music and melodic interludes from far-off places will love this collection, which includes a twenty-eight-page booklet, forty-eight total tracks, and a host of memorable tidbits. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Saulo Duarte e a Unidade's 'Quente'

Saulo Duarte e a Unidade
Tratore Music

Steeped in the traditional music of northern Brazil, Saulo Duarte e a Unidade brings us a gentle mix of energetic music with South American pizzazz and a Latin swagger that is comfortably situated between jazz, folk, and neo-fusion. The rhythms and melodies are very sweet and upbeat with a lot of percussion, keyboards, bass, guitars, and vocals. The steel-pan sounds of "Flores Pelo Ar" remind us of a Caribbean lineage. "Dos Olhos Em Diante" is a nice little funky ditty with a psychedelic appeal and a spaghetti-Western ambiance. There are eleven tracks in all, but the album finishes shy of forty-minutes. However, the thiry-some minutes are pure bliss. Anyone familiar with indigenous Brazilian music will love the regional and trans-continental influences. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, August 25, 2014

CD Review: Various Artists' 'Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych In Peru's Radical Decade'

Various Artists
Peru Bravo: Funk, Soul & Psych In Peru's Radical Decade
Tiger's Milk Records

Peru Bravo... is an upcoming release from Tiger's Milk Records that brings us the best psych, funk, R&B, dance, soul music from Peru during the 1960's and 70's. There are fifteen tracks that bleed with energy, desire, and fun. Every note is a magical masterpiece on every track. You will hear some raw stuff here by some unknown artists, including Laghonia, Thee Image, Black Sugar, Jeriko, Los Destellos, The Mad's, Los Comandos, Cacique, Los Holy's, and many more. The driving dance beats, garage-rock sound, and wild percussion are all accented with electronic embellishments that give the music a modern edge. The licks and chords are gritty and awesome with loads of psych to play with here. The throbbing keyboards, drum beats, and fluid bass-lines are unmatched. Anyone interested in world psych music will relish its tracks. Fans of Peruvian music will love the unadulterated songs. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Kyle Carey's 'North Star'

Kyle Carey
North Star
Americelta Records

The sparkling folk and roots music of Kyle Carey spans continents and time-spans that are unimaginably magical. The incorporation of American, Celtic, Gaelic, Scottish, Irish, and Appalachian leanings are evident throughout. Kyle's vocals are akin to European songstresses, Heidi Talbot and Karine Polwart. There are fiddle, mandolin, piano, cello, banjo, bass, guitar, and percussion elements that add to the folksy roots. Some songs connote a bright, sunny day, while others touch on love, loss, immigration, seasons, dreams, and even gospel connotations. The dozen songs represent morsels of delight that are enriched by the musical traditions of North America, Scandinavia, and the U.K. Fans of folk, roots, European music, and country will be amazed by the stuff on this album. I give North Star five big ones! Try it today. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: MOA's 'Maverick'

Wild Child Music

A background in jazz and Afro-pop, Max Wild (aka MOA), is an innovative performer of contemporary dance and world fusion music with electronic beats and earthen rhythms with guest vocals from Chiwoniso and Jahaan Sweet. The industrial dance beats of "Hands In The Air" is a largely contemporary dance sound with gritty, synth-pop beats and an Afro-pop, urban style. The percolating electronic sounds of "Debo" brings an ambient, spacey tone to the mix that is not too unlike Tangerine Dream's instrumental works from the 1990's. "Barbarian" contains a spacey horn sound with laser-like embellishments and a heady beat that is new age, electronica, and experimental. Whatever the music is called or how it is defined is seemingly irrelevant. Once you hear the sounds your body will know it's great. ~ Matthew Forss

Sunday, August 24, 2014

CD Review: Chancha Via Circuito's 'Amansara'

Chancha Via Circuito
Wonderwheel Recordings 

Argentina's Chancha Via Circuito is spearheaded by Pedro Canale. The electronic meastro incorporates indigenous sounds with contemporary arrangements that are scintillating, at times urban, and Latin dub-step all the way. The instrumental, "Sueno en Paraguay," is an excellent tune with Paraguayan harp and an electronic Andean folkore sound with bits of cumbia, dance, and avant-garde that will please even the purist. There are guest artists, including Lido Pimienta, Mirian Garcia, Sara Hebe, and Barrio Lindo, which provide a well-rounded cast of influences. The percussion-heavy, "Coplita," is a great example of folkloric sounds coming together with female vocals and a South American beat. There are eleven total tracks, which are imbued with electronic, percussion, and native sounds in one easy to understand production that does not stray too far from its roots. This will satisfy cumbia, neo-indigenous, and contemporary listeners seeking music from South America. ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

CD Review: Ljom's 'Seterkauk'

Kirkelig Kulturverksted 

The Norwegian-based group, Ljom, releases their newest album, Seterkauk, which concentrates its energy on cow call songs from Norway's past and present. The swirling songs are steeped in romantic folk rhythms and melodies with spritely vocals and heady arrangements. The group employs a bass, guitar, cello, piano, synth, clarinet, and other instruments, but the voice is the real instrument. Kjerst Kveli is the chief vocalist with a stark ability to evoke tons of emotion packed into a single verse. There is even a sweeping piano tune, "Bennykauken," that contains a bit of a jazzy elegance. At any rate, Ljom presents us with an interesting, relaxing, and contemporary journey into the cow call songs of Norway with ever having to leave our house. Well, you might have to leave at least once to buy the album, unless you get it online. High praise for folk, jazz, and new age sounds from yet another fine release on KKV. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: William Johnson's 'Sacred Roots'

William Johnson
Sacred Roots
Cedros Records

A percussion wizard with ties to Illinois, California, and North Carolina, William Johnson creates scintillating compositions with lively percussion, strings, new age sounds, and world fusion melodies that are truly unforgettable. This is an energetic release with cultural ties to Latin America and Africa with many kinds of instruments to go along with it. The vibrant kora is highlighted on "New Every Morning." The country-tinged, "Carolina," is a musically-complex tune with many influences bleeding through. A few songs have duplicate titles, which connote different instruments utilized and/or different melodies employed. There are eleven total tracks, but only a couple of these are new with different track titles. Overall, William Johnson creates a magnificent collection of sounds, melodies, and instrumental arrangements that bridge together folk, jazz, Latin, African, and Americana music into an enjoyable mix of musical heaven. ~ Matthew Forss

Monday, August 18, 2014

CD Review: Brooklynshanti's 'Bedstuyle'

Rhythm & Culture/Someplace Called Brooklyn

Brooklynshanti's dance and electronic musings incorporate urban, reggae, hip-hop, soul, South Indian, and world fusions that are all delectable and sunny. The reggae fusions on "This Feeling" and contemporary hip-pop of "She" brings a bit of rock and pop to the forefront, but the vocals are still the major part of the song. The sunny and scintillating dance tune, "Sun Salutation," is ripe with killer grooves, female vocals, and great use of percussion and keyboard effects. "Garden Of Ghosts" is a sweet, electronic song with light female vocals and sparkling percussion and digital effects in the vein of Beth Orton. Some tracks feature the music of Karsh Kale, Dani Mari, Tinakristina, Vanessa Beatriz, Evelyn Sharma, Jahdan Blakkamoore, and others. The music is relatively lo-fi with an emphasis on grooves and instrumental medleys providing a majority of the accompaniment, but the vocals are equally important and varied. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Chlopcy Kontra Basia's 'Oj Tak!'

Chlopcy Kontra Basia
Oj Tak!
Riverboat Records/World Music Network

Anyone with an interest in Polish vocal music will love Chlopcy Kontra Basia's intelligent and interesting mix of vocal and classical elements on their latest release, Oj Tak!. The female vocals are blended with double-bass and percussion for a rather lo-fi result that is never boring. The quirky and fast vocals are a great addition to the Polish music scene. The group mixes traditional musical styles with alternative and contemporary avant-garde and pop styles for a truly world fusion experience. Of course, there are neo-classical and jazz undertones throughout, but they do a good job creating a sound that is seemingly-indescribable. In one case, "Kasia," only contains vocals without any instrumentation. Anyone familiar with Polish folk music will love the new sounds emanating from Oj Tak!. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: The Bad Things' 'After The Inferno'

The Bad Things
After The Inferno
Silent City Records

With many lineup changes and tragedies over the years, The Bad Things seem to rise up from the ashes of the past with their latest recording, After The Inferno. The Seattle-based group combines a quirky, alt-pop, and a fusion medley of musical styles and instruments throughout the album. The music takes on a gypsy, cabaret, country, folk, and punk characteristic that is highly-creative, unique, and memorable. The slow and emotive "Green Grass," is a classic folk and country tune with alternative leanings and beautiful back-up vocals. The gypsy rave hit, "Grifter's Life," is a rollicking tune with great vocals and a danceable rhythm lead by accordion, horns, and percussion. With song elements bordering on folk, alternative, and indescribable, The Bad Things know how to create music with soul and substance. There are a few similarities to Neutral Milk Hotel. Get it today. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Bombay Rickey's 'Cinefonia'

Bombay Rickey
Cowboys & Indian

The seven-piece ensemble, Bombay Rickey, includes Kamala Sankaram on vocals and accordion; Drew Fleming on guitars and vocals; Jeff Hudgins on reeds, vocals, and keyboards; Gil Smuskowitz on contrabass; Timothy Quigley and Brian Adler on percussion; and Sam Merrick on drums. Cinefonia boasts a world fusion of sorts that incorporates a bit of gypsy, psych, funk, Hindi, and folk melodies with modern keyboards and guitars. The surfadelic, Pondicherry Surf Goddess, is a psychedelic, surf gem with reverberating guitars, pulsating keys, and flowing vocals amidst a punchy bass-line and melody. The instrumental sections blend Latin, Indian, and North American percussion styles into one, indelible concoction of music. If you are interested in contemporary fusion, South Asian-inspired music, and music with great beats and vocals; you will absolutely love Bombay Rickey. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Susanne Lundeng & Engegardkvartetten's 'Et Steg Ut'

Susanne Lundeng & Engegardkvartetten
Et Steg Ut
Kirkelig Kulturverksted

Norway's traditional and contemporary violinist, fiddler, nyckelharpist, and composer, Susanne Lundeng, brings in the Engegard Quartet for a truly neo-classical and folk-inspired arrangement. Susanne plays the violin on all eight tracks and the Quartet add their own talented string compositions for a very airy, authentic, and emotive result. The only vocal track is "Verdensveier," where Susanne lends her Norwegian vocals for a truly Nordic experience. The slow tune is a respite from the rather uppity compositions. There are spritely melodies, somber elements, and magical moments that found throughout the new album. Fans of string music, folk music, Scandinavian music, and neo-classical arrangements will love Et Steg Ut, which means, "a step out." ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band's 'Unity'

Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band
Wild Lotus Productions

The New Orleans-based kirtan music group, Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band, bring an energetic mix of global treasures with lively kirtan, yoga, Sanskrit-inspired, and new age mantras with beautiful vocals and melodies on Unity. The ten-track release romps through infectious mantras, global chants, and Rumi poetry all composed in an easy-to-listen-to format. The extended instrumentals and repetitive vocals in spots reinforces the melodies and rhythms throughout. "Remember" contains an upbeat world rock beat with vocals akin to Australia's Yothu Yindi, but the tune is more South Asian-inspired than Aboriginal. "The Man In Blue" features a great mantra and uppity guitar tune with a little Southern charm. In a similar manner, "I'll Fly Away" is a gospel-esque tune with Southern roots and a kirtan infusion. "Unity" is a Rumi poetry and chant song that promotes happiness for all by repeating the popular mantra: Lokah Samastah Sukhino Bhavantu in a light pop/rock arrangement. Whether this is neo-kirtan, new age, yoga music, or spiritual music, you will find happiness and solace in the music of Sean Johnson & The Wild Lotus Band. ~ Matthew Forss

Thursday, August 14, 2014

CD Review: Prem Joshua & Chintan's 'Kashi'

Prem Joshua & Chintan
White Swan Records

Prem Joshua & Chintan bring us some tantric and Sanskrit-infused compositions from India's inner soul on their latest collaboration, Kashi. There are nine hit tracks with a little Indian psych funk, contemporary yoga rock, and electronic elements infused with a good dose of percussion, vocalizations, and new age/jazz connotations that are ripe with world music elements. The transcendental songs are majestic, euphoric, and meditative. Of course, the tabla, harmonium, and sitar are a part of the mix, but the electronic and contemporary elements are a bit more prevalent. The result is a global fusion that covers dub on "Tumhaari Maya;" dance on "Gayatri Ghetto;" and modern embellishments on "All Roads Lead To Om," "Ya Devi Sarva," and "Lingashtakam." The devotional tunes are rather lengthy between five and ten minutes long, which allows for some expressive and thought-provoking results. There is nothing really comparable to Kashi, but the apparently-defunct group, Nuklearte, from Italy, is relatively close. If you love the South Asian-inspired modern grooves of yoga, Hindi, and mantra-style music, then Kashi will satisfy your soul. Best enjoyed with your favorite cereal : ) ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014 - General

Another Edmonton Folk Music Festival has come and gone for the year. Once it again, the event featured a huge variety of both established and emerging musical artists, from genres not only of folk but World, blues, country, and even a little bit of rock. Here are some of my highlights.

Daniel Lanois - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

For me, the highlight of this year's festival was the chance to finally see Daniel Lanois perform live. The legendary producer and composer took a chance by playing some of his newer, electronic experimental sounds. He also played many crowd favourites from his earlier work, such as "Jolie Louise" and an epic, 10 minute version of "The Maker."

James Keelaghan - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

Another favourite performer of mine who I just had not yet had the chance to see in concert was James Keelaghan. His rich, mellow voice soared through his songs, several of which were based in Canadian history.

Joe Ely - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

A performer I have heard of but was not that familiar with, was Joe Ely. I was captivated by his country-rock, Tex-Mex stylings, and even recognized a couple of songs from my country phase.

Maria Dunn & Lizzy Hoyt - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

I was excited that local singer/songwriter Maria Dunn take the stage at the Folk Fest. Her often political lyrics capture much of what folk music used to be about. I especially enjoyed her song about Malala Yousafzai, the young Pakistani girl who was shot by the Taliban for pursuing her education. Maria shared the stage with Canadian Celtic performer Lizzy Hoyt.

African Music Workshop - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

An African music workshop featuring Baka Beyond and Alpha Yaya Diallo's West African Summit was as exciting to watch as it was to listen.

African Music Workshop - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

Lunasa - Edmonton Folk Music Festival 2014

The Folk Fest always features at least some traditional Irish music, and this year was no exception. Lunasa graced the afternoon main stage on the Saturday.