Monday, March 21st, 2005

Musique Nonstop :: March Madness Edition (a growing entry)

You get out of practice. Then everyone else nabs the assignment before you can get to it. So…here’s some current heavy rotates:

Konono N°1 :: Congotronics

Lubuaku was the appetizer, but Congotronics is the killing joke. And Lubuaku was one of my favorite records last year. Recorded by Belgian producer and sometime Laswell collaborator Vincent Kenis, Konono’s percussion burns while their distinctive likembe lines loop and surge like a river in winter-melt. Sometimes, an almost second-line style trap drum surfaces with a driving martial beat. The whole thing blasts forward at “Planet Rock” tempo.

But most of all, Konono’s Congotronics kicks mad bass pressure. The effect is not far from say, the b-boy throb of “It’s Just Begun”. When on “Masikulu”, the bassline drops out, you take a deep breath, because you know it’s coming back. It’s like ducking a big wave on the inside while you’re paddling furiously back out to lineup and you know the big sets are still rolling in. Huge rollers of blissful noise. If Lubuaku was raw power, Congotronics is high drama. You won’t be able to remain motionless.

Expect mad reviews on Konono by the end of the spring, and the promised Congotronics 2 to start a global metropolitan craze. Just remember you heard it hear second or third–after the homie, the burb killa Christopher Porter.

Keith Hudson :: The Hudson Affair

Trojan 2-disc anthology expands on Steve Barrows’ loving and essential Studio Kinda Cloudy comp into 2+ hours of pure Dub Dentist bliss. This is why he’s one of my favorite reggae producers of all time–groove, space, and an unshakable intensity.

This comp captures the first half of his career, mainly through 1974. He introduced the world to lights like Ken Boothe, Big Youth, Dennis Alcapone, and U Roy. They all left him for bigger success. He dropped one of the classic dub albums of all time, Pick A Dub, and the existentialist manifesto, Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood. Then, he retreated and mainly recorded himself. For many, that’s when he went off the deep end.

His post-74 output is less consistent, for sure, but as the music deepens its sense of alienation, he’s also quite often brilliant. If you understand the second half of his career as an exile’s reaction to the Kingston scene, as an outsiders’ sound, it makes more sense. Hudson is almost the anti-Bunny Lee, even the anti-Scratch. He’s deliberately obscure and anti-pop.

Keith Hudson rarely fits into the grand narratives of reggae history these days because of these idiosyncrasies–yes, and you thought Scratch was weird–and because by the late 70s, he is floating between London and New York while fixing teeth on the side and experimenting with disco and funk. But there’s no denying the vision of Rasta Communication, the clarity and rhythmic drive of Brand (apparently out of print once again), or the emotional pull of Flesh of My Skin, Blood of My Blood.

In any case, this anthology is the exuberant Hudson (“Old Fashion Way/Dynamic Fashion Way”), the ready-to-conquer-the-world Hudson (“S.90 Skank”), the-more-haunted-than-Burning-Spear Hudson (“Melody Maker”/”Don’t Think About Me (I’m Alright)”), and also, inevitably, the brilliantly iconoclastic Hudson (yes, the infamous “Theme From Satan Side”). That last one, yo, it’s one of the best songs ever recorded.

More reviews here as I feel the spirit.

Down with Dook!

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