Anouar Brahem, or How I Love ECM
Walking into the “World Music” section of any record store is terrifying. There are awful clichés everywhere–so much of the music is handcrafted to appeal to “spiritual” assholes, or housewives that want to appear culturally diverse at their next book club meeting. The last thing I want to hear is sitar over some shitty house beat. On the other hand, sometimes braving the world music section is worth it. I find non-western music fascinating because I know nothing about it; it lets me approach it as a pure consumer, rather than with my own preconceptions of how a guitar should sound, how a pop album should be recorded, how the head should come around in a funk song, or whatever. It is like reading a book without recognizing any of the allusions: only the immediate melodies and sounds matter.
Anouar Brahem is worth braving the World Music section for. He is a Tunisian oud (fretless lute) player that is a master of both traditional Arab music and post-jazz stylings. I’ve only been exposed to the recordings he has done with ECM Records, but they are amazing. I know that the ECM Records approach has become somewhat of a cliché in itself; sparse, compressionless recordings, art photography covers, simple typography, “aesthetic” jazz albums, etc… populate their catalogue. That being said, the attention to detail that the label brings to world music non-western albums is refreshing.
Anouar Brahem – Seule
This song comes from Khomsa, an album of Brahem’s compositions played by an eclectic mix of jazz musicians. Apparently most of the album’s songs were originally for film scores, though I don’t know which film this song is for [Does anyone? I’d love to know. -BP]. This song features my favourite drummer, Jon Christensen, as well as amazingly busy yet unobtrusive bass playing by Palle Danielsson. Richard Galliano has the surprisingly gentle solo on accordion, while François Couturier’s piano holds everything together. This has an amazing melody; if Amélie had been set in Tunis, this could have been one of the sad themes.
Anouar Brahem – Stopover at Djibouti
From his new album, The Astounding Eyes of Rita, this is a more traditional (not that I’d know), gently swung song. It is plodding, but hopeful, and definitely catchy. The playing isn’t as good as on previous albums. The drumming especially is weak, but the electric bass falls somewhat flat here as well. This isn’t just coming from my love of Jon Christensen, the drums too often sounds like a college drum circle. Despite that, this is a beautiful song: the melody floats, and the the bass clarinet compliments Brahem’s playing well. My favourite part of this song is the major/minor toying around with the lead riff.
Hope you all enjoy it. Buy the albums and put them on while you’re trying to seduce that white chick with dreadlocks and the Arabic script tattoos. No seriously I’m kidding, please don’t do that, they’re amazing songs.
PS. I’m still working on a new site, I just don’t want to move things over until I switch hosts.