Friday, October 16, 2015

CD Review: Aziz Sahmaoui & University Of Gnawa's 'Mazal'

Aziz Sahmaoui & University Of Gnawa
World Village

Morocco's Aziz Sahmaoui and his West African University Of Gnawa bring together sounds of the Sahara with sounds of the Western Coast of Africa on the latest release, Mazal. Aziz is a master on the n'goni, but plays the mandole and offers vocals. The Arabic vocals are expertly delivered in a pleasant manner that is never boring. Aziz is joined with other instruments, including the bass, flamenco guitar, sax, flute, tar, violin, daw daw, rhodes, kora, and percussion. The melodies are very intricate, ear-friendly, and entrancing in a very good way. The opener, "Inchallah," is a rousing tune with great instrumentation and vocals. "Mazal" is another good song that contains undulating rhythms of an Arabic and almost Middle Eastern nature that still retain a North or West African presence. "Jilala" is an upbeat dance tune with a contemporary edge of pure African spirit. Fans of North African music will love Aziz's playing style and all of the tracks on the album. Liner notes are in English, French, and Cyrillic Arabic. ~ Matthew Forss

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

CD Review: Tom Teasley's 'Dreams Of India'

Tom Teasley
Dreams Of India
T & T Music

The DC-area percussion king, Tom Teasley, pounds out beat after beat of incredible instrumental mastery incorporating world percussion and some contemporary electronic embellishments on his latest release, Dreams Of India. The pulsating tracks showcase diverse percussive stylings produced by instruments such as doumbek, alto melodica, tabla, konnakol, bamboo flute, wavedrum, cajon, udu, hang, glockenspiel, cymbal, shakers, kalimba, riq, snare, kanjira, bodhran, and a few others. The mix of wind instruments and percussion instruments provides a great balance between light, dreamy sounds and heavier percussive beats. Still, the music is never over-produced and the sounds are a mix of fusion, new age, and jazz. Yes, there are South Asian influences, but there is also an experimental vein bringing in North American styles to a point. Tom's vocal scat is another percussive instrument that is utilized on a few tracks. Overall, there are cinematic moments, dreamy qualities, and entrancing tunes that are both nostalgic and contemporary. Dreams Of India is the best dream anyone can have! ~ Matthew Forss

Tuesday, October 13, 2015

CD Review: Terakaft's 'Alone'

Outhere Records

One of Mali's greatest Tuareg blues guitar groups, Terakaft, brings us another gem from the desert. This is the fifth album from Terakaft and it keeps getting better. The soulful and bluesy guitar rhythms are punctuated by hand-claps, ambulating percussion, scintillating guitar strums, and bubbly bass-lines. The music is quite peaceful at times, while the guitar and rock-like arrangements make an appearance on a few of the tracks. The songs are sung in Tamasheq with liner notes in Tamasheq, English, and French. There are nine tunes here with loads of great grooves imbibing the Saharan spirit through mesmerizing guitar chords. The electric guitar sounds are not to be missed. As a total package, Alone is one of the best Tuareg releases of the year. If you seek Tuareg guitar rock and Tamasheq-soaked songs, then Terakaft should be high up on your list. ~ Matthew Forss

CD Review: Tamy's 'Caieira'

Zip Records

Bossa nova styles have graced the airwaves and stages around the world for decades, yet it continues to be a source of inspiration and creativity for artists of today. Tamy lives and breathes bossa nova and mixes it with subtle jazz, neo-classical, pop, and folk styles on her debut release. Fourteen tracks showcase Tamy's beautiful voice and instrumental arrangements. There are laid-back creations full of bossa nova flavor, such as "Serena," "Eu To Com Voce," "Te Esperei," "Caieira," "Me Diz," and a few others. The Portuguese-laced song lyrics are steeped in Brazilian traditions. The assorted percussion, light guitar work, delicate vocals, and breezy melodies take on a rather light-hearted release. However, there are some nods to African musical styles on "Mae Africa," as well as more upbeat pop and rock sounds on "Dava Pra Ver." Overall, there is something for everyone here. Fans of Brazilian music with a contemporary edge will find Tamy in their playlist quite often. ~ Matthew Forss

Friday, October 2, 2015

CD Review: Atlas Jungle's 'From The Dirt'

Atlas Jungle
From The Dirt

The Guilford, Connecticut tribal, funk, new age, psychedelic rock group, Atlas Jungle, releases an innovative five-track EP that includes both vocal and instrumental gems. The spacey, funky, and psych-laden, "Space Being," contains some atmospheric washes, electronic pulses, and smooth grooves for one heck of a ride. "The Cave" contains heady rock beats, light vocals, and gritty guitar work matched with electronic pulsations for a space-meets-South journey. "Goa Nights" opens with a little slap bass that heads right into a groovy, sultry, and funk-laden concoction with glittery electronica adornments and excellent percussion arrangements. There are even sitar-like sounds near the end of the song, which makes sense, since Goa is actually a state in Western India. The end of the song contains airy, yet punchy, flute renderings that could have been produced by a didgeridoo. "Pythagoras" is another great psych and funk journey with a slight Southern rock vein. The jaunty mix is has a world flair with sounds similar to an Australian origin. Some parts of the song are a more amped-up type of background music similar in style to a YouTube video demonstrating the Australian-made OzTent. "Snow Cat" is a vocal tune with buzz-laden sounds, heady rhythms, and a meandering beat that brings in rock, psych, and funk in equal proportions. If you haven't been convinced yet; you will. From The Dirt is definitely a highly organic experience. 5 Stars (out of 5). ~ Matthew Forss