Ethnofusion Picks #May2018

June 16, 2018 - Blog


Presenting our Ethnofusion finds in May 2018, featuring a wealth of weird and wonderful musical styles including tribal and Bengali dubstep, Arabic and Andean downtempo, ancient Haitan soul, ethnic psybass, Byzantine mid-tempo, psychedelic klezmer, salsa glitch, and other non-traditional forms of trans-tribal collaboration.

To clarify a few other points post-GDPR, every artist mention here, criticisms or other music analysis is purely opinions that I’ve formed from closely following these musical styles for a few years. I only feature the very best I hear every month, using information that has been made publicly available by the artists/labels. Hence, if there’s something you find incorrect or want to clarify on, hit me up on the contact page.

– Baxtak

Abstrakt Sonance – Fire Dance [Deep, Dark & Dangerous]

Abstrakt Sonance has been steadily dominating our radar as one to look out for when it comes to hi-fidelity tribal dubstep and this tune from his new DD&D EP is a perfect example of why that is the case. Intricate percussive elements, clear and dynamic low-end wobbles, and the carefully placed chants all make for the perfect execution of this ceremonial ritualistic realm of dubbery.

Eccentricity = 8 (an increasingly signature and noticeable ancient dub style from the artist)
Lucidity = 10 (everything about this mixdown and master hits me in the right place)
Intricacy = 9 (minimal-sounding execution with maximal intricacy)
Cadence = 10 (perfect dance for night-time smoke-signal-fuelled circle-fire shenanigans)
Sentiment = 9 (does extremely well to represent the song title’s concept and feel)

Median = 9.2

Bengal Sound – Culture Clash

Keeping up with the tradition of Bristolian dub warrior mentality, Bengal Sound came out with this album of South Asian deep dubstep bangers, made up of what feels like old Bollywood edits. Interestingly, the album is only available as 500 cassette tapes which have now sold out so unless you are one of those lucky chosen few, here are some short clips of this dope release to marvel at. Musical window shopping at its finest right here.

Eccentricity = 8 (few artists have nailed this strand of dubstep so well)
Lucidity = 8 (definitely comes with a (deliberate) lo-fi vibe but pretty neat nevertheless)
Intricacy = 8 (film-crate-digging galore topped with a necessary low&high dubstep arsenal)
Cadence = 9 (if this doesn’t get your noggin wobbling, you need to loosen up)
Sentiment = 10 (throwback cultural dubstep to listen to on tape; I can get behind that sentiment)

Median = 8.6

Soukah x Primer x Tar – Rost [Rarefied]

The Rarefied crew come through with some of their mind-twisting confusion sound of dubstep, and it’s exactly what you’d assume the broken gramophone would play if it was injected with enough AI capacity to understand the vices of inner-city metropolitan wobble marauders. The sonic combination of Soukah, Primer & Tar is eerily similar to the feelings one may have during a salvia trip and for anyone who’s comfortable drowning in a quicksand of their mind’s darkest depths, Rost got you covered.

Eccentricity = 9 (the Rarefied sound is already recognisable as a unique muddled form of dubstep)
Lucidity = 9 (masterful crafting of multi-layered ambiance and strong key elements of the riddim)
Intricacy = 8 (the more you listen, the more you discover how subtly intricate it is)
Cadence = 8 (surprisingly groovy for this level of discordant syncopation)
Sentiment = 9 (fans of ghostly and esoteric dubstep wizardry should not miss this)

Median = 8.8

Goro – Ana Arabi

‘Ana Arabi’ is a unique downtempo track that Goro brought to the masses this month and it comes with a characteristic deep quaking bassline and a minimal attitude that is reminiscent of early ethnostep explorations or even the sludgy art rock of groups like Godspeed You Black Emperor with the feedback-heavy FX. This foundation is built upon using pillars of oud for its Arabic architecture and the words of Mahmoud Darwish about the Arabic identity as its cladding envelope. The song’s overall sorrowful and introspective feel makes you wonder whether this building has been demolished in an airstrike but you can be sure that the builders are not about giving up to engineer more.

Eccentricity = 9 (brave new take on the downtempo world beat music style)
Lucidity = 8 (there is an undoubted lo-fi feel but it certainly doesn’t take away from the song’s feel)
Intricacy = 8 (give it your full attention and you will notice all the subtle intricacies)
Cadence = 8 (not an easy feat to make such slow music cadent but it’s well-achieved here)
Sentiment = 9 (what it mean to be Arab? this song’s content and sound tackles that subject well)

Median = 8.4

Simakov – Bedouins in the Night

There’s always something endearing about songs conceived in the travels of a producer, especially when it includes the meeting of cultures, exchange of instrumental language and recording of field sounds. In this case, the idea behind ‘Bedouins in the Night’ stems from an interaction Simakov had with a number of Bedouins he encountered in the mountains of Petra, Jordan. The result is this 7.5-minute desert roller with a repetitive aesthetic which makes me think of an accelerated cyclic coming-and-going of days and nights in a hypothetical time-lapse video of a desert shot over years.

Eccentricity = 7 (tested formula, yet iterated to pretty high standards)
Lucidity = 7 (rather well-mixed, however the kick is a little too overpowering)
Intricacy = 8 (expect the necessary elements of Arabic downtempo house/techno)
Cadence = 8 (many aiding elements to the main groove, falling slightly short in prolonged repetition)
Sentiment = 10 (very few things can beat the first-hand nomadic experience of ethnofusion music)

Median = 8

Boddhi Satva – An Nou Alé feat. James Germain [Offering Recordings]

The label-head at Offering Recordings and “ancestral soul music” representative, Boddhi Satva gives us an inspirational story with this feature and how it came about with James Germain, the Albino singer of Haitian decent who’s renowned for spreading values of pan-Africanism and unity through his distinctive wailing singing style.

Manifested in a 4-day invited trip to Port-Au-Prince, Boddhi Satva made connections with numerous artists from the island, including James Germain, with whom he laid the foundations of this song. The remainder of the bricks were laid for this offering by various collaborators in Paris and Brussels to record bass guitar and the Kora, before being brought all together in Lisbon and presented to the world.

Overall, the song radiates high levels of authenticity and professionalism while giving us a heart-warming collaboration which serves to protect local musical traditions with a message of unity. What else can one ask for?

Eccentricity = 9 (the combination of the beat and Germain’s voice is highly novel and unique)
Lucidity = 9 (organic, spacious and mature mixing style, giving all instruments chance to shine)
Intricacy = 10 (kora, vocals & plenty of other elements sourced from across continents)
Cadence = 10 (a brilliantly moving mixture of downtempo electronic music and soul)
Sentiment = 10 (conceptually, it captures most things that are dear about ethical world fusion music)

Median = 9.6

Mente Orgánica – La Llanura EP [NUMA]

Following the footsteps of other South American musicians who are fully recapturing their local identity and encapsulating it in organic electronic music, Jacobo Polania aka Mente Orgánica gives us this EP through NUMA, exploring various angles of grounding trip-hop / downbeat music. With the artist hailing from Colombia, the first track being inspired by the Shipibo tribes of Peru and the Andean ukulele-ish instrument, Charango, and three remixes by artist from Guatemala, Chile and Argentina, this EP is as authentic as Latin American hybrid music comes. Combined with the spacey cosmic aesthetic of pad-led ambiance on Interno Eterno, and the beautiful voice of Lapola Kalu on the title track, the EP makes for a wholesome listening experience.

Eccentricity = 8 (comfortably between ancient culture, Gorillaz-esque trip-hop, and downtechno)
Lucidity = 8 (nice execution of melody-focused mixing with great utilisation of the soundsphere)
Intricacy = 9 (vocals, instruments, synths, foley, etc.; you can expect a lot of goodies)
Cadence = 8 (music to drift on a cloud to so can only expect a modest level of danciness)
Sentiment = n/a (can’t understand the lyrics language so I will refrain from commenting on this)

Median = 8.25

Byzantine Time Machine – Trapped in the Sultan’s Palace [Outtallectuals]

Byzantine Time Machine returned in May with a new single for us at Outtallectuals in their unique blend of world and electronic music, written in the Maqam (scale) of Nawa Athar. The song is a continuation of the group’s conceptual narrative, telling the tale of these scientists’ journey to ancient lands as their time machine breaks down and they become trapped in the sultan’s palace. What really counted for me with this one is the group’s ability to use a mere three people to construct this song from their recordings of 11 instruments on top of usual mixing, mastering and digital duties; there’s a good reason these folks are core artists of our label!

Eccentricity = 10 (close to no other artists have such a distinct instrumental approach to ethnic electronic dance music)
Lucidity = 10 (the song took near to one year to mix and master properly and the result speaks for itself)
Intricacy = 10 (over 10 instruments recorded purposefully for this track as well as a healthy dose of electronics)
Cadence = 9 (the experimental nature of the song’s progression means heaps of evolving and interlocking grooves)
Sentiment = 9 (conceptual story told through progressive evolving song-writing, artwork and title)

Median = 9.6

Kaya Project – Up from the Dust [Tribal Shift]

After a 4-year process of creation, Seb Taylor brings us his latest Kaya Project album, featuring 20 musicians from around the world, bridging cultures, musical instruments and expressions in one of the most cohesive projects to grace the ethnofusion genres to date. Over the course of 16 songs, Seb Taylor provides his own recordings of guitars, tzoura, saz, p-bass, piano, zitabo zither, kalimba, darbuka, kids toys, bells & percussion, and duduk, while other collaborating artists present the ney and silver flute, tabla, vocals, clarinet, sitar, bansuri, sarangi, and more.

“Up from the Dust” is one of the most mature releases to have come across our ears, managing to encapsulate the vibe of great early 70s and 80s groups such as Ozric Tentacles and King Crimson, the pan-ethnic and globally-uniting appeal of crate-digging artists Den Sorte Skole, and overall musical cadence of world beat greats such as O.T.T and Dirtwire.

However, beyond the comparisons, “Up from the Dust” is an instant classic within its own right; one that can translate the sonic language of compassion to listeners of all creeds and ages. A careful balance of variety and continuity is achieved through pure musicianship, and the through-composition aspect of the album is beautifully enforced with influences from a profusion of cultures. Accordingly, both at the levels of individual songs or continuous listening, the album represents an ambassadorial flavour, serving as a working model for how tribal conflict can be quelled between nations through synergy.

Overall, Kaya Project’s latest release is a perfectly-crafted offering for those in search of globalised music that does not undermine local cultures, while enforcing an authentic sense of dialogue and companionship.

Eccentricity = 9 (principal classic sound but with an unprecedented level of detail)
Lucidity = 10 (brilliant mixing of dozens of instruments, vibes and musical expressions)
Intricacy = 11 (first time we give more than full marks for intricacy; just look at those album credits!)
Cadence = 10 (an uplifting continuous listening experience & a non-turbulent journey around the globe)
Sentiment = 9 (few releases capture the essence of ‘ethnofusion’ this well)

Median = 9.8

KUBA (Laurence Harvey) – Animalia [Liquid Sound Design]

This month, we have another legendary return from an ethnofusion and psychil OG; Laurence Harvey. The Kuba project served as one of my gateway releases to this genre back in 2009 when I heard his 2006 album, ‘Inside Out’, and my admiration for the artists’ portal value to these ethereal realms of music has always kept me on the look-out for his new music. Now, after “two years of intensive hard graft in the studio”, Laurence Harvey gives us the “Animalia” album through Liquid Sound Design, a 12-track full-length with potent meditative attributes and a deeply mature and seasoned charm. The album’s details highlight that these songs were crafted in between sessions the artist had in the studio, engineering for legendary acts such as Shpongle, Suns of Arqa, Nik Turner of Hawkind, and John Leckie, a producer for Pink Floyd.

Accolades aside, this album is perfectly capable of speaking for itself. At the intersection of space rock, world fusion downtempo, psychedelic effects and transcendental ambiance, Animalia serves as one of those releases that drastically improves your mood as a fast-acting form of sonic pain relief medication. Aesthetically, the album is a subtle modernisation of the principal psychill sound, blended with a modern sense of textural timbre and positivity, akin to artists like Bonobo, especially in songs like ‘Sunset in the Calpe’ and ‘Before they Slip Away’. ‘Albunuelas’ stands out as a psychedelic dub gem and it is a continuation of the artists’ ability to explore a variety of music genres while staying consistent in the overall sound of a release.

Overall, Laurence Harvey’s latest offering is an egoless and empathetic vessel for grounding connection and it reminds me of that one friend people have who they can rely on for emotional support without any chance of negative judgement or shocking out-of-character qualities. You can go listen to the wildest tunes and artists and most avant-garde experiments at your own risk but know that Kuda’s Animalia is there for you when you want the sure dose of euphoria.

Eccentricity = 9 (what may be lost in current vanguard value is balanced by shear variety in the album)
Lucidity = 10 (mixed and mastered professionally and cleaner than purified holy water)
Intricacy = 9 (a rich and wholesome mix of organic and digital elements)
Cadence = 9 (all songs are a perfect blend of atmospherically slow and steady, yet highly groove-led bounciness)
Sentiment = 8 (a clear case of high level vibeful musicianship and being surrounded by top level inspiration)

Median = 9

Sacral Crown – Seva [The Great Magnet]

Taken from Sacral Crown’s new Testament EP release, ‘Seva’ stood out for us as a perfect example of the artist’s growth within the realm of squelchy and ethereal downtempo bass music. Overall, this EP (and this song specifically) represents his clear evolution as a sound designer, as well as majorly improving to strike a balance of melody and dissonance; a factor that I highly value in the blog’s music standards. Fans of emotive time-warped wub sonatas and abundantly-reverbed and delayed sounds, this is certainly somewhere you can find solace.

Eccentricity = 8 (the reverbed laser-spray squelch style is growingly characteristic of the artist)
Lucidity = 9 (neat execution with plenty of elements interacting in hard-to-manage conjunctions)
Intricacy = 9 (organic elements n melodies, intricate drums, heavy sound design; sold!)
Cadence = 8 (curious limp groove but could be more dance-friendly without jeopardising its chill)
Sentiment = 8 (not much there in terms of concept but emotionally-engaging)

Median = 8.4

Wolf Tech – Klezmonaughty [Shanti Planti]

Bridging the worlds of Klezmer and psybass, Wolf Tech gave us this tune this month as a part of his Shanti Planti full length release, and the unique product of these two musical expressions caught my attention. The song is a pretty good representation of the album’s mixed aesthetic of blues, psychedelic squelchery, jazz and world elements, and it’s sure to get your snakey hips charmed.

Eccentricity = 8 (not common to hear klezmer mixed with psy-hop)
Lucidity = 9 (plenty of nuances in the left/right, low/high, filled/empty spaces)
Intricacy = 8 (multi-layered harmonies, beefy fx & ambiance but slightly less intricate on the drums)
Cadence = 8 (could do with slightly more groove spices but solid nevertheless)
Sentiment = 9 (certainly achieves the fusion aim it suggests in its title)

Median = 8.4

MantisMash – Dreamers Eardrums [Shanti Planti]

Another Shanti Planti artist who released a full length this month is MantisMash, giving us a dose of the label’s signature blend of psychedelic beats, world influences, and sound design wizardry. Dreamers Eardrums was the standout track for us from this album; a song based on a whirling and trance-inducing bass and key loop, but gradually growing with a heap of added melodies, intricate drum grooves, and characteristic chant chops. MantisMash is a pretty good example of what an amalgamation of all Shanti Planti artists would sound like and this tune serves well to mix the new school psybass feel with OG psychill aesthetics.

Eccentricity = 8 (Shanti Planti characteristic sound of the MantisMash kind)
Lucidity = 9 (everything about this mixdown hits me right in the feels)
Intricacy = 9 (subtle use of evolving melodies from different elements through the song’s evolution)
Cadence = 9 (intricate reoccurring groove keeps the dance factor consistent and engaging)
Sentiment = 8 (spiritual bass music, influenced by life and equally repetitively evolving in approach)

Median = 8.6

Ovoid – Yea Boi [Additech Records]

Albeit a few months late, we had to make an exception for this Ovoid release on Additech Records and include it in May’s picks. There’s just something extremely charming about the guitar riffs, groovy squelches and an almost metal attitude that makes for a great track when combined with the carefully mixed and cohesive mixing style. Absolutely exemplary production this one!

Eccentricity = 8 (fairly unique exploration of guitar-laden psybass on a hoppy groove)
Lucidity = 9 (immaculate mixing with close to no competition of elements for attention)
Intricacy = 9 (sweet balance of guitars, layered drums, heaps of fx and the odd cuts)
Cadence = 10 (absolute dancefloor belter, there is no question about that)
Sentiment = 8 (it certainly evokes the bass-face yea-boi chant of approval)

Median = 8.8

Little Snake – ‘HXD’ [Brainfeeder]

Brainfeeder came out with this manic display of avant-guardianism with its twisted switch-up from tribal EDM house to ermm… straight up glitches in the matrix, and back to salsa before switching to some mad noisey fuckery again. As far as schizoid music production goes, Little Snake totally nails this one, Dr Jekyll and Mr Hydeing in and out of sanity. Another rare yet solid display of bigger experimental labels supporting neuro-born producers, especially of the Renraku alumni kind. Perhaps another Alpha Pup Distribution connection?

Just had to warn you again, shit’s gonna get pretty weird around here.

Eccentricity = 10 (not sure if I’ve heard tribal IDM glitch house salsa noise before)
Lucidity = 9 (expect a pretty hi-fidelity level of execution, slightly lacking in the non-IDM sections)
Intricacy = 9 (sound design galore, topped with a good few Latin toppings)
Cadence = 8 (weirdly works well in the 1st glitch for how fucked-up things get but 2nd glitch is a bit more erratic)
Sentiment = 8 (if the sentiment is to make juxtaposed bipolar music, then this is certainly a success)

Median = 8.8

Kai Whiston – Stairway to Heaven feat. Mike Shinoda

We welcome back to the blog one of our favourite yung experimentalists, Kai Whiston, with this 10-minute journey, supposedly in collaboration with Mike Shinoda of Linkin Park. The song starts off with an emotive ambient orchestral section, topped with sorrowful vocals before descending into glitchy trap/dubstep, leading into a 4×4 guitar-led section and descending into glitchy weirdness again. Further on, Kai Whiston presents his disregard for genre norms by continuously breaking into new grooves throughout the track, before ending with a 2.5-minute string-led drum-less section.

Kai Whiston has been on our close radar ever since the release of his brilliant ‘Threads & Strings’ on TAR and he is a perfect example of young producers who simply give very few fucks about fitting existing moulds. It is exciting to see such talent being picked up by bigger labels and management companies, and with a Lapalux support slot coming up in London soon, numerous interviews in big edgy magazines and whatnot, we’re telling you to make sure that you follow and support this fella’s growth; the potential is real.

Eccentricity = 10 (it’s a strange and daring 10-minute composition & it gets a point for each minute)
Lucidity = 8 (not fully there in getting the dynamics of such eclectic music right but well on the way)
Intricacy = 10 (detail-heaven over here; expect a full range of organic and digital sounds & bops)
Cadence = 7 (impressive gliding through musical styles with room for improvement in continuity)
Sentiment = 8 (not quite sure about this turbulent track’s concept but it is emotionally engaging)

Median = 8.6

Chamberlain – Prologue / Long Grass Serpent [Delicious Music]

Being in somewhat of a prime limelight for Delicious Music’s recent compilation, Chamberlain gave us two new tracks in his signature Aussie doof-hop style, opening the compilation with an orchestral hit-ridden intro, Tomorrow’s Landing, and a full-on dancefloor belter, Long Grass Serpent. Focusing on the latter, Chamberlain goes deep into the forest with the natural foley flavours, as well as his signature bass guitar hits, didgeridoo grooves, heavy wubs and the whole glitchy shebang.

To this blog, Chamberlain has reached his rightful spot as an ethnic glitch-hop OG and his sound is almost instantaneously recognisable. With these tunes, we see him following and perfecting the same musical formula as before with a more profound emphasis on natural atmospheres. Despite the familiarity, by the response my body is giving to this track, I suppose there’s still much more juice left to explore; one does still wonder where the future will take Chamberlain’s music and how his style will evolve in the future.

Eccentricity = 8 (instant characteristic recognition of the Chamberlain sound, albeit familiar)
Lucidity = 9 (carefully mixed and mastered for dancefloor applications)
Intricacy = 10 (probably Chamberlain’s most intricate one yet; many instruments, foley, fx, wubs, etc.)
Cadence = 10 (as groovy and dance-friendly as they come)
Sentiment = 8 (Chamberlain’s successful ambassadorship of the Aussie bush doof feels)

Median = 9

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