black mirror

Various — Black Mirror – Reflections in Global Musics
Dust-to-Digital CD

The “black mirror” in the title of journalist/musician Ian Nagoski’s compilation of recordings of musics from around the world is the stone, shellac and carbon surface of the 78 r.p.m. disks that were made of between the two world wars. If the premise of a compilation of music from around the world recorded between 1918 and 1955 seems initially like a broad or extravagant one, Nagoski takes responsibility for his own selections and orderings, seeing in them not some scientific or anthropological grouping of sounds that are “objectively” connected and ready to be analyzed, but rather a series of lateral, intimate, contingent connections produced by chance, pleasure, repetition and the marketplace. Thus a lovely bagpipe track by Scotts Guardman Henry Forsyth from the 1930s morphs into a South Indian nagasvaram track into a West African rhumba from the 1950s into a Polish gypsy wedding music track. The listener is forced to confront the mix as a series of human sounds, discovered by Nagoski no more than a thirty minute drive from his hometown of Baltimore, and costing a total of $125. What is revealed then is Nagoski’s taste and imagination, both of which are rather exquisite, as well as a series of trajectories into a variety of musics that the listener may or may not be familiar with, for further investigation and enjoyment. The blueprint for this kind of activity, as Nagoski points out, are archivist/compilers like Harry Smith, who created historically definitive collections of music that are also highly personal montages of their own record collections. The difference here is that Nagoski presents a path through a whole world of sound rather than a particular region or culture. It’s a risky venture, but the intention here is not to sum up anything but to create a path, and the path of Black Mirror is a delightful one.

Group Inerane – Guitars From Agadez
Sublime Frequencies LP
Guitars from Agadez is the second of two recordings of extraordinary electrified guitar music from various parts of the Saharan diaspora issued by Sublime Frequencies this year. Like Group Doueh’s startling Western Saharan fusions of Hendrix and Sahrawi music, Group Inerane will be filed under “ethnic” music, and indeed they are strongly related to traditional musics, in this case Touareg music from Agadez in northern Niger. But setting aside the trademark feminine north African ullulations which explode whenever things really get going, these disks sound not unlike vintage Sun City Girls — amplified, turbulent, complex, abstract while at the same time, hard and funky. In other words, as “modern” as anything made in Europe or America today.
Touareg guitar music was born when these nomads of the Sahara inhabiting a vast desert area spanning parts of Mali, Niger and Algeria were exiled to refugee camps in Libya during political unrest in the early 1980s. Amplified guitars, songs containing otherwise banned political commentary and bootleg cassette tapes became a cultural/political rallying point for performers such as Abdallah Oumbadougou, who also hails from Niger, and the better known Tinariwen, from north east Mali.
Those familiar with Tinariwen will recognise the sound here, but Hisham Mayet, who also made the terrific DVD of music from Niger released by Sublime Frequencies (which also features a performance by Group Inerane), gives a rougher, more lo-fi sound to the group, which threatens to distort and at times disappear entirely in ways that are refreshing after the slickness that still dominates “world music” recording.

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