Saturday Night Traxx_112120
Andrew Ashong & Kaidi Tatham / Linkwood & Other Lands / Krust (Masters at Work remix) / Conclave / Ethiopian Records
Less abandon, precision and beat largess. More songs and food for thought.
London music cornerstone Andrew Ashong and keyboard legend Kaidi Tatham have collaborated on a nice six-song EP of broken-beat soul songs called Sankofa Season for a new label called Kitto. The music they make here is mostly of the expansive, fusion-eering vamp or soulful house variety, but the drums and layered percussion of “Eye Mo K” want you to engage more directly, and three minutes in it takes a sharp left turn to make sure you do so. Gone is the circular percussive groove, and a London funk pocket with handclaps appears. It all feels wonderfully effortless, with Tatham making sleek keyboard runs and Ashong singing about finding “freedom,” it deeply reminds me of Earth, Wind & Fire.
I came across Edinburgh’s Linkwood (aka Nick Moore) via the excellent British ambient jazz keyboardist Greg Foat, and the massive LP the pair released earlier this year — and ever since, been playing catch-up on all the great traxx he made for Firecracker. Other Lands (aka Gavin Sutherland) is another Firecracker regular, also operating in a dizzy analog haze of instrumental jazz-funk-house keys and tripping synths; dancefloor-adjacent if not always -centered. That’s prolly a pretty good way to describe “Shapes,” from their phenomenal new Athens of the North LP, Face the Facts. It’s a slowed-down heater filled with the kind of Rhodes+percussion action anyone sweating Theo can prolly get down with. The whole album is recommended.
I wasn’t much of a drum’n’bass head, so I hadn’t thought of Krust (Kirk George Thompson) in a minute. One of Roni Size’s prized production partners in Reprazent, (whose New Forms I did wear out in ‘98-’99, and still revisit regularly), Krust had one solo track that’s always stuck to me: “Coded Language,” a collaboration with Saul Williams that sounded like a Y2k screed co-authored by Kodwo Eshun. I bring it up because the Masters at Work remix of “AntiGravity Love,” a single from Krust’s first album since 2006 (on Crosstown Rebels no less), harkens directly to that masterpiece. It too features stream of consciousness poesy rolling downhill over massive drums and ethereal keys, yet with the vocals (Krust’s?) pitched higher and higher and higher, until at around 3:00 they run off a cliff. What ensues is a classic MAW big-system house bump that I’d love to hear at 3a on a full dancefloor someday.
Pronounced almost as two words—“con clave”—betrays the slight yet discernible Afro-Caribbean underpinnings on the New York duo’s robust house songs. That’s right, songs. “There’s Enough” is the second 2020 single that vocalist/multi-instrumentalist Cesar Toribio and multi-instrumentalist Scott Scribner have dropped (s/o to spring’s smokey, discordant “Sunny” ) which aspires to do more than light-up a club. Conclave also want sing-alongs to accompany Toribio distinctive crooning style, which flirts with tempo. They also don’t just sculpt great rhythm tracks, but complex, multi-part melodies and arrangements. “There’s Enough” even features a great Santana-like guitar solo, giving it a Nuyorican Soul or Fania energy. Sublime!
Ever since Dawit Eklund introduced me to the music of Endeguena Mulu (Addis Abeba-based DJ/producer Ethiopian Records) a few years ago, I’ve coveted every drop — of which, even in today’s prolific digital age, there aren’t enough. ER’s mostly releases mixes (regularly updated on his Soundcloud) which blend techno- and bass-influenced contemporary African sounds, with an obvious focus on his homeland’s diaspora. On this week’s RA mix Mulu also spotlights musical pan-Africanism — numerous ER remixes and edits, rub shoulders with hints of Gqom, tracks from the Python Syndicate/Crudo Volta crew (whose comps do a great job highlighting West African electronics and beats), and a soca-meets-Nyege-Nyege-like banger from Dar es Salaam’s Jamaica Mnanda. They also set the context for like-minded Westerners (two tracks from Mala’s DMZ), and spoken word pieces by the the likes of Ethiopian poet Tsegaye gebre medhin, and Kwame Nkrumah, the Ghanaian president who co-founded the Organization of African Unity. Read the interview on the politics behind Mulu’s choices.