New World Music Reviews

Welcome to my "New World Music" page, which highlights new(ish) African, Asian, Latin American and Celtic records, and "miscellaneous" records that I had the good fortune to check out in Spring, 2012. This page is added to as new records come in... If you want more to read more reviews, many others are archived nearby, and there are separate sections for various kinds of world music that you might like exploring as well.

Recommended Records: Spring, 2012 | Review Archives | World Music Index

Arnaldo Antunes "Pequeno Cidadao" (2011)
A new one from a favorite Brazilian artist, indie auteur Arnaldo Antunes... Too bad none of this new stuff makes it into the US anymore, what with our economy in the crapper and theirs catching fire. Oh, well. Guess a trip to South America is in order, if I want to pick this one up... Anyone got a free ticket they can spare?

Celly Campello "Estupido Cupido" (Box Set) (2011)
Omigod... Is there really a whole box set of Celly Campello, the Brazilian Annette Funicello?? I so totally want this for my birthday! Dunno how many discs it has or how many non-album tracks are on it... But I want it! I want it!! She was so adorable!

The Chieftains "Voice Of Ages" (Hear Music, 2012)
The elders of Irish trad go on an indie outing, with help from rock artists such as Bon Iver, The Decemberists and Low Anthem, along with a slew of country/Americana/folkie types such as the Carolina Chocolate Drops, Pistol Annies and the Punch Brothers. Haven't heard it, but I bet it's interesting.

Celia Cruz "Reflections Of The Incomparable Celia" (Jasmine, 2012)
This tasty 2-CD set is a straight reissue of four vintage albums by Cuban superstar vocalist Celia Cruz... Always a treat!

Mane Do Cavaco "Martinho Da Vila Apresenta Mane Do Cavaco" (RCA, 1973)
Cavaquinho whiz Mane Do Cavaco whirls through a lively set of choro and samba instrumentals, evoking the spirit of Jacob Do Bandolim, though with modernized dips into the pagode samba sound that was emerging at the time, and even shows off a little taking a spin at a Johann Sebastian Bach melody (which he includes in a medley of classic tunes by Pixinguinha and Jacob Do Bandolim...) Do Cavaco's technique is rather emphatic and forceful -- although he's clearly a virtuoso, he doesn't throw in as many of the super-sweet licks that make the best choro music sound so subtle and refined. Regardless, this is a very nice record, packed with dazzling performances and fun melodies... Recommended!

Irene & Francis Jacob "Je Sais Nager" (Sunnyside, 2012)
(Produced by Irene & Francis Jacob)

French actress Irene Jacob, who's been making the music scene for a few years now, has recorded a full album with her brother Francis... Her voice is lovely (if you get a chance, also check out her duets with Vincent Delerm, who makes an appearance here on "Ne Serait Y Pas"...) although I have to say her brother's contributions seem relatively flat by comparison. Still, this is fun stuff, melodic and sweet, and will offer some nice sonic gems to fans of contemporary French indie/pop... All songs written or co-written by the Jacob sibings, both separately and collaboratively.

Joyce "Curriculum" (Discobertas, 2011)
An ambitious odds'n'ends'n'rarities collection which covers the years 1964-72, when a teenage Joyce hit the Brazilian bossa/MPB scene and made her name as a festival performer...

Edison Machado "...E Samba Novo" (CBS, 1963)
As if often the case with these Brazilian jazz albums, there's not really much of a homegrown samba influence to be heard... Even though the songs covered are include bossa standards and several originals by saxophonist J.T. Mierelles, the feel is straight-up, swinging jazz. Still, as a jazz album, this is pretty creditable... Since bandleader Machado plays drums, there is an Art Blakey-like emphasis on the snares (though less of a "pure" hard jazz style). With him is an all-star cast: Mierelles and Paulo Maura on sax, Tenorio, Jr. on piano, and Moacir Santos writing and arranging the bulk of the album. If you're looking for noteworthy Brazilian jazz albums, this is one of the best.

Mairi Morrison & Alasdair Roberts "Urstan" (Drag City, 2012)
(Produced by Markus Mackay)

An interesting, challenging pairing of Scottish indie/folkie oddball Alasdair Roberts and singer Mairi Morrison, in which his unusual, genre-tweaking take on Celtic trad remains intact, but is complimented by Morrison's more jazzy leanings. In a funny way I'm reminded of the early, Jacqui McShee lineup of Pentangle, with its giddy, rough-hewn mix of British folk and jazz -- the two elements are more distinctly at odds here, but the erratic blend creates a compelling tension, a sort of idiosyncratic musical highwire act. Fans of Alasdair Roberts's work will find a lot to cheer for here -- this is a dense, multi-layered album, with satisfying and rich melodies as well as his trademark quirkiness; Morrison's contributions often come through assertively and abruptly, but they are a nice compliment to his style. Recommended!

Thomas Dutronc "Silence On Tourne, On Tourne En Rond" (Mercury-France, 2011)
The second solo album from the son of French avant-pop stars Jacques Dutronc and Francois Hardy. He shifts gears a little here, opening with several (great) indie-rock oriented songs that do justice to his royal lineage, and slowly circles back to the acoustic gypsy-jazz sound of his debut, along with a lot same kind of mellow, melodic indiepop that's big in France right now. Nice record: I'm keeping my eyes on this guy.

G. G. Vikey "Chantre De La Negritude" (Bolibana, 2011)
Oooh, neat! This is a digital reissue of an old album that I actually own -- I found it in the bins of a small record shop that was going out of business in the late 1980s, and I've always wondered who the heck Mssr. Vikey was (there was no Internet to speak of, back then...) and where he came from. The subtle, quirky guitar work reminded me of New World artists such as Joseph Spence, but the groovy dashiki clearly said "somewhere in Africa." Now, two decades later, I've finally pieced it together, with help from the Bolibana reissue series (digital only, alas!) and French Wikipedia, I have learned that Gustave Gbenou Vikey was a musician from Benin, mainly active in the 1960s, and that he released this one album, along with a string of singles. I'm still not sure exactly what year this record came out, but I'm pleased to see it "in print" again at last... If you enjoy gentle acoustic roots music -- think S. E. Rogie-era palm-wine music -- then you might want to check this gem out. Includes a few tunes with a full band, but it's mostly just Vikey and his "guitare Africaine," and it sounds really, really nice. Recommended!

Noriel Vilela "Eis O Ome" (Copacabana, 1968)
(Produced by Ismael Correia; Arrangements by Maestro Carioca)

Great Brazilian reissue! A strong, sweet, swinging set by deep-toned, deeply funky singer Noriel Vilela, who originally came from Nilo Amaro's band, Cantores De Ebanos, and is considered one of the core artists of the "samba rock" sound... Apparently this was his only full album before his premature death -- a pity, since he was really fun artist. If you like Wilson Simonal's perky early albums, then this one is a must-hear as well. Great, groovy arrangements -- this one really swings! The original album didn't include his best-known song, "16 Toneladas," the super-funky sambadelic remake of Tennessee Ernie Ford's "Sixteen Tons" and neither did the 2002 or 2012 CD reissue: would have made a great bonus track. Oh well, maybe next time...

Zarbang "Rengineh" (Mahoor Records, 2011)

Various Artists "BAMBARA MYSTIC SOUL - THE RAW SOUND OF BURKINA FASO: 1974-79" (Analog Africa, 2011)

This far-ranging 2-CD set gives a multi-generational overview of Brazil's influential Copacabana record label, which was founded in 1948 as a family business and was later swallowed up and made a subsidiary of the international EMI conglomerate. Over the years, Copacabana has been home to a number of important artists, as seen in the diverse group on this all-too-brief collection, which includes work by Elizeth Cardoso, Dolores Duran, Jackson do Pandeiro and others... There seems to have been a rush towards more modern material, with lots of '70s funk-pop and MPB material, as well as some samba and regional styles. More back-catalog from the 1950s and early '60s would be fun, too -- but for an introduction to the vast catalog of one of Brazil's major labels, this is pretty cool. Love how they used the old graphics from their 78 labels on the cover!

New To Me...

Bebeto "Ao Vivo" (Universal-MZA, 2000)
(Produced by Marco Mazzola)

A slick but surprisingly solid live set from one of the legends of the Brazilian 1970's "samba rock" scene. Bebeto is an old pro giving a lively, appreciative audience what they want. Even with the poppy arrangements, this album has an electrifying undercurrent -- the band plays with feeling and drive, and the fans sing along on every song. You can tell everyone was having a good time, and if you're into classic samba-rock, then you might want to check this album out as well

Bense "Album" (Wagram/Faisage, 2006)
A groovy, very listenable acousto-indiepop set from France. I thought this was quite pleasant, with kind of an Andy White vibe. As far as I can tell, this is the only album Bense has recorded so far... The "Reedition" and "Nouvelle Edition" CDs have the same tracks, just different album art. Either way, it's nice music.

Tabu Ley Rochereau "Man From Kinsasha" (Shanachie, 1991)
(Produced by Tabu Ley Rochereau)

Chances are this is one of the albums that introduced me to Tabu Ley, way back when, soon to be superseded by reissues of his earlier, more pivotal work from the 1960s and '70s. Anyway, I found a cheap copy and went back for a listen -- as anticipated, the opening notes were synthetic and tinkly, typical of the so-called "Paris style" of African pop that many world music fans cringed at in the '80s and '90s. Nonetheless, it's still pretty catchy -- Tabu Ley is Tabu Ley, and he's a class act. This isn't his greatest work, and there are even a few tunes that you can skip altogether, but some of it's quite nice. Worth checking out, at least.

Various Artists "SOUTHERN MOZAMBIQUE: 1943... 1963" (SWP, 2003)
This mindboggling collection of potent, lo-fi field recordings from Mozambique is a must-have record for listeners in search of truly "new" obscuro-sounds, things that you simply haven't heard before. I couldn't help thinking, on track after track, what a rich reservoir this is for modern-day musicians who want to explore unique sounds either as remixes or by trying to figure out how the sounds were made, all those years ago. In some cases, it's been done by accident -- for example, the droning, flanging overtones of the Chopi tribe's marimbas (similar to the accidental, buzzing tones produced by finger pianos, but larger and more dense) which sound remarkably similar to the downward notes of the synthesizers on the Magnetic Fields song, "In My Car." The percussion and vocals on other tracks are equally unusual, a pure, unfiltered indigenous style largely uninfluenced by the world of pop music and electrification that lay beyond the poverty of postwar Mozambique. Stark, inaccessible-sounding at first, but a real mind-blower if you can get into it.

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