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Master Musicians of Jajouka with Bachir Attar, "Live Volume 1"

This excellent live recording, their first album in eight years, documents a 2007 concert in Lisbon, Portugal, on the final night of a week-long tribute to Paul Bowles. Led by Bachir Attar, who has steered the group for over 25 years, the Master Musicians deliver a masterful performance of songs both old and new, including some that have never been released until now.



Although the sound of the Master Musicians has varied little throughout the years, this album presents their music like few have before. Clean and unadulterated by studio effects, the instruments are equally balanced in the mix and possess a fantastic tonal depth that makes their music more appealing-and mesmeric-than ever. The drums on "Joal Fibladijoal" are pummeling and insistent though brief, while the Musicians reach for ecstatic communion on "Boujeloud Dancing with Kandisha." A melodic flute with backing drones encompasses the first half of "Double Medahey" before various drums and rhythms make the hypnosis complete. If the album has a centerpiece, it would be the 19-minute epic "Allah Allah Habibi Galouja," one of the few songs here to feature singing as well as bowed and plucked instruments alongside the usual flutes and drums.

Such a splendid performance coupled with superb recording quality makes this an exceptional album. A fitting tribute to Bowles, Live Volume 1 is also the debut release on a new label owned and operated by the Master Musicians themselves, hopefully the first of many more to come.


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Mantra Percussion, "Michael Gordon Timber Remixed"

cover imageAs an ostensibly cultured person, I pay embarrassingly little attention to current activity in the modern classical and jazz scenes, which is likely a lingering remnant of my uncompromisingly punk/DIY-centric formative years.  For the most part, this has not backfired on me, but occasionally something absolutely amazing manages to pass by me totally unnoticed, such as Michael Gordon's staggering minimalist epic Timber (2011).  Thankfully, fate has conveniently intervened to give me a second chance to celebrate the joys of this singular percussive masterwork, as it has now surfaced yet again as a live album with a companion disc of remixes from a murderers' row of experimental luminaries like Fennesz, Tim Hecker, Oneohtrix Point Never, Squarepusher, and Ikue Mori.  For the most part, the original piece proves extremely difficult to improve upon, but several of the remixers certainly make a compellingly valiant effort.

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