list.co.uk/music Records | MUSIC
WORLD / JAZZ / FUNK VARIOUS ARTISTS Haiti Direct: Big Band, Mini Jazz and Twoubadou Sounds: 1960–1978 (Strut) ●●●●● INDIE-POP DUM DUM GIRLS Too True (Sub Pop) ●●●●●
Though just as rich, multi-faceted and deeply rooted, Haiti’s musical culture has never attained anything like the international profile enjoyed by those of its neighbours Jamaica and Cuba. Compiled by tropicalia archaeologist Hugo Mendez of the Sofrito collective, and released by archive label Strut, this two- disc collection explores trends in the island’s musical development during the 1960s and 70s. Given the country’s colonial history and geographic locale, it’s unsurprising
that many of these tracks are intriguing hybrids, incorporating elements of Latin American, African, North American and European (especially French) music. Les Vikings’ ‘Choc Vikings’ is a great example, a combination of Dominican merengue rhythms and glittering West African-style guitar licks that skips along in irresistible fashion, while funk bass meets scorching riffs, jazzy Rhodes fusion and Latin cowbell on ‘Pile ou Face’ by Les Loups Noirs.
Some of the most compelling tracks, like those by Pierre Blain et Orchestre Murat Pierre and Ra Ra De Léogane, are ones in which the African influence is to the fore. Best of all is Scorpio Universel’s unbelievably funky and exuberant stomper ‘Ti Lu Lu Pe’, a constantly mutating patchwork that’s a beautifully dizzying encapsulation of the culturally cross-pollinating Haitian sound.
Considering that it spans 18 years, 27 artists and a wide range of styles,
‘Here is my best attempt at joining the rock’n’roll ranks,’ writes Kristin ‘Dee Dee’ Gundred – for Los Angeles’ Dum Dum Girls are fundamentally she – in an accompanying spiel to her third album. Too True also lists Arthur Rimbaud, Charles Baudelaire and Sylvia Plath among her notional ‘artistic collaborators’, and Patti Smith and Lou Reed as her ‘spiritual parents’. Such pretentious proclamations – ‘it is never pretentious to feel and create’ she writes elsewhere – rather frame this album’s weakness for try-hard self-conscious posturing amid what is essentially better-than-average dreamy American indie-pop.
Typically for such an undoubtedly gifted, Shangri-Las-channelling sonic temptress as Gundred, ‘Are You Okay’ and ‘Too True to be Good’ possess melodies that stay with you like a lover’s perfume, albeit one that reveals nothing especially sophisticated in the fragrance notes. Musically, it’s lots of little we haven’t heard before, both generally speaking (whole songs feel interchangeable with ex-Dum Dum Girl Frankie Rose’s solo output) and sometimes very specifically (you may find yourself willing ‘Little Minx’ to break out into the riff from Black Sabbath’s ‘Paranoid’). The production from regular Dum Dum Girls co-conspirators Sune Rose Wagner
of the Raveonettes and Richard Gottehrer – the veteran Brill Building songwriter behind ‘I Want Candy’, and producer of Blondie’s 1976 debut – is crisp and atmospheric, but then so is a lot of dreamy American indie-pop production. ‘Trouble is My Name’, good as it may be, literally checks in to a cliché by appearing to
this is a remarkably consistent and fascinating collection, with a more or less relentless pulse and joyous mood throughout. A little momentum is lost only on a mere handful of tracks, where the style leans towards the politer and more tasteful end of traditional Latin music. Overall, Haiti Direct is engaging, approachable and extremely groovesome – and a welcome riposte to the negative clichés unfairly associated with Haiti after several decades of schlocky movies. (Matt Evans)
represent one of two woe-washed songs on the album that Gundred reveals were written in a haze of ‘drunken loneliness’ at LA’s notorious Chateau Marmont (site of narcotic misadventures by all from Jim Morrison to John Belushi).
You have to wonder why Gundred got so tearfully obsessed with writing herself into rock’n’roll legend, when a record that simply builds on her last – and Too True shades it on 2011’s solidly enjoyable Only in Dreams – is no modest goal to be ashamed of. (Malcolm Jack)
OPTIMO COMPILATION VARIOUS ARTISTS Dark was the Night (Mule Musiq) ●●●●● NOISE ROCK XIU XIU Angel Guts: Red Classroom (Bella Union) ●●●●●
The arrival of a second Optimo compilation in only eight months gives the feeling we’re being spoilt a little by the esteemed selectors behind Glasgow’s much-loved club night. However, while only one of the Optimo DJ pairing (Keith McIvor) curated last year’s Underground Sound of Glasgow, both he and Jonnie Wilkes have compiled Dark was the Night and musically, the two releases are very different.
The title gives a nod to Texan bluesman Blind Willie Johnson’s 1927 recording ‘Dark was the Night, Cold was the Ground’, which, 50 years later, became one of the musical offerings on the Voyager space probe’s Golden Records. The song was chosen as a human expression of loneliness, and Johnson actually died penniless of malaria fever decades earlier. This moving tale helped inspire McIvor and Wilkes’ choices for this collection, and apparently their attempt ‘to invoke the sounds of a dark winter’s night’. The compilation opens with the ambient throb and tinkling keys of Grouper’s
‘Vanishing Point’, and the foreboding synths and mysterious Gregorian chants of Jeff & Jayne Hudson soon follow. Next, a salvo of dark, unsettling, bass-heavy house and techno from Terrence Dixon, Jared Wilson and Mike Dunn with the sleazy, Kraftwerk-sampling ‘I Won’t Hurt You’. Tracks melt into one another in long, drawn-out fashion to create a tense, unsettling atmosphere that comes to characterise the album, and it continues courtesy of the combined thundering grooves, metronomic chords and rumbling bass of Roberto Auser, Recondite and Byetone. Electro-mechanical noise from Hecker and the otherworldly, experimental sounds of Nurse with Wound and Carter Tutti signify the mix’s second phase; Voigt and Voigt’s swinging rhythms follow, easing into the dark breakbeats of Holy Ghost Inc and Deadboy. Like A Tim’s eerie electronics rub up against Edinburgh punk band The Freeze and samples of the Voyager mission before a finale offering of Corpus Christi’s accordion-fuelled cover of Suicide’s ‘Dream Baby Dream’. (Colin Chapman)
In 2012 Jamie Stewart, the creative force behind long-running noise-rock project Xiu Xiu, moved across the States from his home in North Carolina to Los Angeles. Unbeknown to him at the time, his new neighbourhood was notorious for gang violence, with a park divided among four tribes and, at the centre, a lake that was routinely dragged for bodies. The fear and claustrophobia of that new environment is stamped all over one of the bleakest records in Xiu Xiu’s expansive and already infernal discography. The album’s title is taken from a cult 1970s Japanese erotic-noir film that itself
tackles pornographic taboos, and the album strives valiantly for, and occasionally finds, a similar sense of transgression. The whole thing has a very deliberate crassness about it, both in content and production aesthetic: recorded using analogue synths and 70s drum machines, it often sounds like a filthy spectre of Italo disco. There are hints of Liars’ most funereal tendencies, with a few shreds of noisy Swans genetics laced throughout, too, as monstrous tremors bleed across the whole album, convulsive and agitated like the horrors of outside clawing at the door.
There is a level of self-awareness in the dirge – the repetitive chorus of ‘Black Dick’, for instance, is so ludicrously trashy that it must be tongue-in-cheek – but it’s not always enough to alleviate the rigorous tension in these songs. Gaudy horror soundtrack elements help maintain dread, as bells toll for ‘EL Naco’ while creatures gnaw frantically on ‘Adult Friends’ and a chainsaw roars menacingly as
the album draws to a close. Stewart’s unnerving vocals
continually switch between campy melodrama and bloodcurdling whispers, and on occasion the sheer oppressiveness of the atmosphere becomes overwhelming, mainly because he makes so few concessions to listeners’ comfort levels. Angel Guts is designed to sound like it comes from a dark, twisted place, but there are enough powerful moments to make it worthwhile trawling through that mire. (Chris Tapley)
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