Another top quality, album-length release, the twenty-first 12" in our highy-acclaimed Split Series features two artists utilising layered rhythms and vocals in very different ways, each arriving at a distinctive and dynamic group energy.
LA-based Foot Village are the quartet of Grace Lee, Brian Miller, Dan Rowan, and Josh Taylor. Active since 2007, and featuring members of Gang Wizard, Friends Forever and the infamous International Voice of Reason, they've described themselves as the 'loudest Acoustic Rock Band Ever'. Heavily concept-based, their foundation-myth depicts Foot Village being the first nation built after the foreseeable apocalypse, erecting civilization anew with drums and voices alone - no guitars, no electronics, no amplification (other than via megaphone). Key proponents of the Los Angeles DIY scene centred around The Smell, their brilliant live performances (with drums set up on the floor in the midst of the audience) are compelling spectacles of pure energy exchange. Their unplugged post-hardcore assault is anchored in the now of ecstatic energy, propelled by an inherent momentum and sudden dramatic shifts.
A single 16-minute-long piece, the band describe 'Bebongs' as being "about being young and listening to records in the middle of the night with your friends; the type of experience that creates ineffable bonds of friendship while on psychic journeys." These types of experience were vital to all the group's members, translating 'into the feeling we get when playing our drums, deep and lost in the sound. With 'Bebongs' we wanted to create an epic journey through, as the lyrics note, "the door that can never be seen". A song with many unexpected movements and lyrics that swing from silly and fun to the deadly serious, 'Bebongs' is an explosive song embracing infinite possibilities and transcending the band's simple set up of just drums, voices, and one megaphone. Beginning with a humble swirl of sounds laying out the pallet, the tools for such travel, it opens in a tumbling, freeform clatter before cohering into a beat and gear-shifting through different stages. By the end these sounds have come together in a literal opera, "a place we challenged ourselves to go beyond anywhere any Foot Village song has taken us."
Occupying the other side, Super Khoumeissa is a group of six musicians and four dancers from Gao, on the banks of the Niger River in the North of Mali, 320 km east of Timbuktu. Whilst the group has been active (with changing personnel) since at least 1990, this is their first official release. Super Khoumeissa are the premier representatives of the most widespread musical style in Northern Mali Takamba, which denotes both a musical structure and a dance. The group play traditional three-stringed instruments known as the Tehardent or Ngoni which are amplified to both augment and distort the sound and the traditional gourd percussion instrument known as the Calabasse. This combination produces a dynamic sound that can instantly captivate a crowd. With Takamba bands frequently found playing at weddings and other celebrations, the dance includes graceful and subtle movements performed both seated and standing where the shoulders and arms sway with the flow of the songs.
The instrumentation on these releases is three Calabasse, two Tehardent [aka Ngoni] and one vocalist. The presence of the three calabasses give this instrument the dominant sound and reinforce the four dancers who are an integral part of the group's live performance. The repetition and variation of the ngoni and the calabasse are layered to produce complex interactions and harmonics. The tunes and rhythmic structures of their music derive from traditional melodies whose lyrics recount tales of the heroic past, of love and of the life and history of the Sahara. This folk-based music is hugely popular in the North of Mali and its rhythms have transferred into much of their contemporary music - audible in the music of such artists as Tinariwen, Khaira Arby, Tartit, and Tamikrest. Takamba is also one of the only musical styles to have crossed the cultural borders between the nomadic and sedentary people of the Sahara and the Sahel. Super Khoumeissa present a musical repertoire of songs of the Touareg and Songhoi in their dynamic and very graceful performances. Sung in the Sonhrai language, all three tracks here are rooted in traditional songs which form the basis of each particular group of musician's interpretations.
The members of the group on this recording are: Zerena Maiga (vocal), Yacouba Toure (ngoni), Abourhamane Idrissa (ngoni), Salif Maiga (calabasse), Mahamar Almou (calabasse), Boubacar Izia (calabasse). Also an integral part of the group but not heard on the recordings are dancers Abdoulaye Toure, Salimata Haidara, Tazouden Samake, and Zeinabou Maiga. Super Khoumeissa have found fans in Animal Collective, who invited the band to play at their ATP Festival in May this year.
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