Strange, this one!
When I read about it, I was more interested in the three tracks by SUPER KHOUMEISSA, a group of six musicians and four dancers from Gao, on the banks of the Niger River in the north of Mali. I have long been interested in the varied sounds of the African continent (a result no doubt, of listening to late-night John Peel and Andy Kershaw radio shows in my teens) so I pressed the ‘play’ button for each of this group’s three tracks in keen anticipation.
What a disappointment!
The music played by SUPER KHOUMEISSA is termed ‘Takamba,’ and is the most widely spread style of music in the North of their country. Basically it comprises (on these three particular tracks at least) of a few three-stringed instruments known as Terhadnets or Ngonis that can be amplified to augment or distort the sound, with the percussion provided by a traditional gourd instrument called a Calabasse. There are three of these in this band and the sound they produce is quite distinct and strangely hypnotic.
However, it is by far the sound of theses Calabasses that command the listener’s attention, and although the rhythm of the Ngonis change slightly on each track (as do the vocal chants) to the untrained ear at least, the beat of these damn percussion instruments seem not to. Consequently, all three tracks seem to merge into one great big, enormous and frankly pretty boring eighteen minutes of tedium.
The first track is interesting because of its freshness, but thereafter all that registered in my ears was the predominant percussion.
FOOT VILLAGE on the other hand provide something altogether more interesting … although I have to say that for the first four minutes or so of the sixteen, I thought the track ‘Let Bebongs Be Bebongs, Idiot,’ was going to be one of those weird efforts that hipsters with beards and unkempt hair sit crossed-legged to and lie through their teeth by saying that they love it, in the misconceived notion that by doing so it will somehow make them seem ‘cool, daddio,’ thereby convincing others that they are ‘interesting’ when they are really quite sad. (We all know one of them at least, right?)
Anyway, after a couple of plays, this sort of spaced- out, arty opening does kind of make sense, but it is the following twelve minutes of the mammoth track that are so exciting.
FOOT VILLAGE are a four-piece from Los Angeles who are key proponents of the DIY scene in that particular city. They have described themselves as the ‘loudest Acoustic Rock Band ever,’ and ply their noise through the medium of drums and vocals alone. No – no guitars, electronics or amplification (other than occasionally through a megaphone.)
What results is neither like Pookiesnackenburger nor the more contemporary Stomp. What we have here is an interesting form of artrock that seems to lean as heavily on free-form jazz as it does on post-hardcore. The rhythm of the drums is accentuated by the shouts and rather maniacal vocal delivery.
I can’t actually track down a video to go with this particular track, but here’s one of the band playing live on their home territory at The Smell, in LA.
(As I write this, I just notice that they were playing at Sleazy in Glasgow last night. Bugger!)
(Released through Fat Cat Records on 1st August 2011)
(8.5 / 10) (for the FOOT VILLAGE track alone.)