Tuesday, March 30, 2010

When DID we turn that corner?

Another fine performance by Habib Koite and Bamada last night. Some audience members might have been itching for more high energy dance tunes, but I very much enjoyed the rather mid-tempo set they turned it. Chock full of great balafon work, although I'm pretty sure that was not Kélétigui Diabaté back there, it was also highlighted by the band pulling out more trad instruments like a smallish kora, and a kamale ngoni. I missed the violin they sometimes bring along (pretty sure that's a Diabaté thing) but you always gotta love his crazy talking drum player. No matter how many times bands say how much they love The Cedar, I still got a big kick out of Habib pausing early in his set and looking around the hall, saying, "This place... indeed is like a home to us." Thanks, guys - and enjoy those new West Bank/West Africa t-shirts, OK?

Here's a little clip of Diabaté ruling the balafon. Our guy last night had hair.

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OK, I'm over my crush on the Smoke Fairies...well, maybe I just have a additional crush on one of our intrepid reporter crew's other SXSW superstar picks. The recent release Gloria by Slovak bowed guitar/poppy hooks/weird samples duo Longital has stolen my heart away this week. Or at least my earbuds. Daniel Salontay and Shina (Šina Lo) aka Jana Lokšenincová say "We play the soundtrack to a psychedelic version of the happy end of the world, where fish fly over the rivers filled not with water, but with music streaming into the seas." Creating these soundscapes at their place on the hill called Dlhe Diely in Bratislava, the listener enters into their slightly off-kilter, but cozy world. ("Longital" is a version of the old German name of the hill - and it was a lot easier for non-Slovaks to say.)

I had a nice map graphic here - FOR A DAY! on the difference between Slovakia and Slovenia. What's up with the link? I cannot tell. But you can learn more here.

The sing-along (no, you don't need to know the language) hooks work great in loud situation like doing the dishes, and the playful (without being annoying) little found sounds are fun discoveries when you pull out the headphones. They have gotten me EVERY TIME with that weird birdcall? broken machinery? clicky percussive thing partway through the otherwise classically pretty "Sinko stupa/The Sun is Rising." I think "What the heck is going on outside... oh yeah, it's in that song." Listen for the loud cat purr at the beginning of "My dve/Two of Us", too. Really, why not lead into your beats with a purr?

Darker tracks like "Cervena Modra /Red Blue" had me hitting that repeat, but I really am liking the catchy upbeat songs, too! They're weird enough to keep me interested; the bowed guitar can come off like a butch cello but he can go all Hendrix with it, too. Salontay was a math teacher/jazz musician and Lokšenincová studied engineering before they quit their day jobs, and according to our Angel of Rock, they did have very cool techno gear along with her fretless bass and his various vintage guitars and double bass bow. Just don't ask me if I would be as into this if the lyrics were in English...because you know I really don't want to hear about anybody's relationship. In Slovak, the words just float on by as another color on the palette.

Let's hope another U.S. tour in on the Longital agenda soon.

* * * * * * *

When did we turn that corner? When did you really stop caring whether you had the physical music source rather than the file? Was it last time I was told to "Put away your cds! They make the living room look messy." ( What - and Lego don't?) Was it when I received a gift card for the Electric Fetus and it's still in my wallet months later? Was it when I ordered the new Carolina Chocolate Drops a few months ago because there was one low price for 320 bit files PLUS a bunch of files of live tracks PLUS the actual disc. What did I need that disc for? It's sitting in the kitchen gathering dust. I should probably give it to my mother-out-law or leave it in Lisa's car.

While it is still sounds great - once in a while - to crank up something on the actual stereo with real big speakers and everything, a vast majority of the time it really doesn't matter to me any more. My car is wired for the Pod. We have a handy little Bose Pod player in the dining room. I have numerous sets of groovy ear buds. The only thing I can imagine buying the physical disc for anymore is something like the Analog Africa stuff that come with big fat booklets, archival photos, hidden tracks, etc. (BTW, his next compilation comes out April 12; Colombian accordion stuff called Mambo Loco.)

It's certainly partly about paying for the song instead of the whole disc. [Say, Ms. Fever - Do you really have a terabyte of individually chosen SONGS? Or are there a lot of entire albums in there?] To any of you, c'mon, name up some recent releases where the entire disc is essential.

Some things never change. I have a very clear memory of standing before the tiny record rack at the dime store in Horicon, Wisconsin at about age 9, gazing longingly at Sweet's Desolation Boulevard. How did I know there were enough "good songs" to to fork over my hard earned $6.99? Wouldn't it be safer to spend 99 cents apiece to buy the 45s of "Fox on the Run" and "Action," since I already knew those were "good songs?" This mathematical evaluation was repeated several times in diverse locations such as the Shopko in Beaver Dam and a K-Mart near Grandma Wheeler's in Des Moines. I never did buy the album, but I did have those singles around for a long time. (In an aside, I actually bought the files of "Fox on the Run" and earlier Sweet hit "Ballroom Blitz" a few years ago. They sounded... a little...slowww 30-some years on.)


Veronica Fever said...

Horicon, Ms Dub? Huh. I spent my summers thirty miles northwest of there, on Little Green Lake outside Markesan. Mosquitos and tornados. Good times.

Anonymous said...


the balafon player you saw with Habib is Fassery Diabaté. He's Kélétigui's son and replaces his father in the band. In the past Fassery has played with Ballaké Sissoko, and he als participates in his fathers orchestra in Bamako.

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