Dirtmusic – Troubles (Glitterbeat Records)
10 June 2013
In 2001, 1 Giant Leap released their eponymously titled album made from their travels around the world. They involved well-known artists such as Neneh Cherry, Eddi Reader and Michael Stipe and mixed them with local sounds mainly from Africa. The album that the ex-Faithless members produced was a critical milestone and even produced a hit single in the Maxi Jazz/Robbie Williams accompanied My Culture. This year, Dirtmusic (alias Chris Eckman and Hugo Race) have taken that theory and gone on to make a magical album of quite stunning quality.
The story goes that after the departure of Chris Brokaw, the remaining members of Dirtmusic travelled to Bamako in Mali with lyrics but nothing else – no songs, no tunes, no ideas. Joined by the likes of Ben Zabo and Samba Toure they produced sessions which turned into this album.
Straight into an urban African groove is opener, Chicken Scratch. It’s hot, humid tones are infectious, the voice and sound not dissimilar to Massive Attack, but, the deep-rooted dirtiness of this is marvellous with its screeching guitar sound and funk guitar sound. Zabo guests on vocal. It’s amazing played loud.
The tracks on Troubles are a mix of West African rhythms and rock’n’roll which creates an incisive and unique journey in sound. Singing in Songhai, Tamasheq and Bambara, as well as English, it’s true success is the meeting of Africa and the West in equal importance.
La Paix features the incredible vocals of rising star Aminata Wassidje Traore which together with some amazing guitar work by Eckman and Race creates a stunning track. Title track, Troubles, a wonderful Blues infected piece – “I got up this morning, first person I met was the Devil”. Indeed.
Traditional Malian sounds in the form of a soku are incorporated into God Is A Mystery. With added monotone electronics it becomes atmospheric and haunting. Track 2, Fitzcarraldo has more galloping sounds, traditional percussion and floating guitars. Belgian violinist Catherine Graindorge is brought in to add a further twist.
This album is rock, it’s roll, it’s funk, it’s African, it’s an aural delight, and, if the album itself wasn’t enough, the packaging is a joy. A triple fold out sleeve with an integral twenty-eight page booklet. It’s an awesome package. There’s even enough tracks from the sessions for another album early next year!
Not only is this one of the best albums of 2013, it may well also be one of the best albums you’ll ever hear.
Published on Louder Than War 8/06/13 - here