Trenga Records

Trenga Records: New noise from Morocco

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I couldn’t find much information on the mysterious Casablanca-based independent label Trenga Records, but everything I’ve heard has been fantastic. I’m especially drawn to The Afro Ninja, which reminds me at times of DJ Shadow. It’s just one of the many sounds of this eclectic label that you should be following.

Trenga Records: SoundCloud

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Frequency Asia

Frequency Asia: The podcast celebrates its first anniversary with an excellent greatest hits collectionfrequency asia

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I’m kicking myself for just finding Frequency Asia, a podcast and label that finds the best modern sounds of Asia. Learn more about them here. Its Vol. 1 compilation from two years ago is an excellent introduction to what the podcast covers, from thrilling guitar rock to dreamy ambient jams and everything in between.

From Bandcamp:

“Frequency Asia has been around a year now, so I thought we should do a compilation to celebrate. Frequency Asia Vol. 1 takes 22 songs played on the podcast over the first 30 episodes and brings them to you on tape or via the magic of the internet.

This is some of the best underground music that Asia has to offer, from psychedelia from Thailand to instrumental hip-hop form the Siberian tundra, to Malaysian noise rock and Indian sludge, this compilation should hopefully have a little bit of something for everyone.”

Frequency Asia: Website Facebook Twitter

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Noura Mint Seymali

Noura Mint Seymali: Mauritania’s great psych blues artistnoura mint seymali

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I’ve only recently discovered the incredible music of Noura Mint Seymali, whom Vice Noisey rightfully called the Mauritanian psych blues artist you need to know about. All of Seymali’s albums are great, especially last year’s fast-paced Arbina, which features some of the best riffs you’ll ever hear on any instrument from any musician in the world.

From Bandcamp:

“Arbina is Noura Mint Seymali’s second international release. Delving deeper into the wellspring of Moorish roots, as is after all the tried and true way of the griot, the album strengthens her core sound, applying a cohesive aesthetic approach to the reinterpretation of Moorish tradition in contemporary context.

…Supported by guitarist, husband and fellow griot, Jeiche Ould Chighaly, Seymali’s tempestuous voice is answered with electrified counterpoint, his quarter-tone rich guitar phraseology flashing out lightning bolt ideas. Heir to the same music culture as Noura, Jeiche intimates the tidinit’s (Moorish lute) leading role under the wedding khaima with the gusto of a rock guitar hero. Bassist Ousmane Touré, who has innovated a singular style of Moorish low-end groove over the course of many years, can be heard on this album with greater force and vigor than ever before. Drummer/producer Matthew Tinari drives the ensemble forward with the agility and precision need to make the beats cut.

Many of the songs on Arbina call out to the divine, asking for grace and protection. “Arbina” is a name for God. The album carries a message about reaching beyond oneself to an infinite spiritual source, while learning to take the finite human actions to necessary to affect reality on earth. The concept of sëbeu, or that which a human can do to take positive action on their destiny, is animated throughout. While final outcomes rest in the hands of the creator, the duty to use one’s capacities as a human to work towards our hopes and highest intentions roots us in life and relationship to God. The title track ‘Arbina’ applies this concept to specifically empower women in their decisions about preventative healthcare. It advocates for the concrete task of early screening to prevent breast and uterine cancer, sickness that claimed Noura’s own mother at a premature age, while offering an appeal to the ultimate benevolence of God. “Ghizlane” invokes the concept through metaphor, describing the elusive nature of our dreams and the innate obligation to follow. “Richa” reflects of the power of music as a vehicle.”

Noura Mint Seymali: Website SoundCloud Facebook Twitter

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Autumn Sweater

Autumn Sweater: for fans of Protomartyr, Interpol, and Joy Division

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Luxembourg’s Autumn Sweater takes everything I love about Protomartyr, Interpol, and Joy Division and meshes it all together quite beautifully. The band’s Facebook mentions that their interests include tacos, turtles, ’70s men’s fashion, and Aladin on Super Nintendo, which are all very punk things.

Autumn Sweater: Website Facebook

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Matador

Matador: “It is better to listen to it with headphones”

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Matador is Santiago Bogacz, who does all the guitar playing and singing you hear on his latest album that came out late last year, which is eerie and spacious and haunting and really beautiful.

From Bandcamp:

“It is better to listen to it with headphones.”

Matador: Facebook

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Kabreet

Kabreet: hard rock riffs meet Arabic scales and rhythms.

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Kabreet is a Damascus-based indie band that combines hard rock riffs and Arabic scales and rhythms. You can hear a love for classic Western rock (think Rush, Guns & Roses, Led Zeppelin, etc) that’s blended with the traditional sound of its land and telling the stories of its own home.

From Bandcamp:

“[This is] an indie rock band from Syria, based in Damascus – capital of Syria. [they play] mainly alternative and indie rock sung in arabic lyrics. [The band] concentrates mainly on the daily life of the Syrian youth, while the music is a mixture of alternative / indie rock and middle eastern musical elements, scales and rhythms.”

Kabreet: Facebook Bandcamp

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Hanoi Masters

Hanoi Masters: preserving and sharing the sound of the Vietnam War.

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Similar to INFRACom!, Glitterbeat’s Hanoi Masters is a music compilation that aims to preserve and share the sound of Vietnamese music during a specific era. Hanoi Masters is a collection of field recordings of Vietnam War-era songs recorded by Grammy-winning producer Ian Brennan. The songs were recorded live on traditional instruments and capture the mood of a country during and after the devastating war.

From Bandcamp:

“The first volume of Glitterbeat’s new series of releases: Hidden Musics. Each Hidden Musics release will feature un-mediated “field” recordings of lesser-known global music traditions.

“Hanoi Masters: War is a Wound, Peace is a Scar” is a haunting audio document recorded in the summer of 2014 by Grammy-award winning producer Ian Brennan (Tinariwen, Malawi Mouse Boys, The Good Ones). The sepia-tinged songs are sung and played live and direct by elderly Vietnamese musicians using half-forgotten traditional instruments. These musicians all have deep personal connections to the upheavals of the Vietnam War and the album’s mesmerizing mood navigates the blurred line between raw beauty and sadness.

40 years after the end of the Vietnam War, a war these Hanoi musicians still call the “American War”, the wounds and scars of that era are ever-present. “Hanoi Masters” is an album of cautious healing and an unforgettable meditation on conflict, resistance, collective memory, and the longing for what has been lost.

In the liner notes of the album, producer Ian Brennan discusses the experience of making “Hanoi Masters”:

‘We had gone to Hanoi to record veterans from their side. Some were music masters, one of whom had joined the army at age thirteen and whose job it was
to sing to the troops to boost morale and provide solace. Another was a former AK-47 issued village leader who had not sung in over forty years, and proved to be the most dead-on vocally. She did not hide or adorn, but quietly revealed muted emotions that a microphone often can detect more easily than face-to-face interaction. Then, immediately afterwards, she withdrew back into a stoic shell.

The streets of Hanoi are an almost direct inversion of western cities, with hordes of scooters displacing and grossly outnumbering cars. The chaotic ballet of riders, sometimes four or five to a single motorcycle, is offset by the reserve of the
riders. Many are masked to ward off pollution and only once was there witnessed even the slightest reaction to all the incessant horns and traffic violations by others.

Those who dismiss Asian music as without an edge, may have simply overlooked the intricacy. With a whammy-bar technology that dates back to the 9th century, it is fair to say that Vietnamese traditions had a bit of a head start over the headbangers of the 1980’s. A startling revelation was a plucked instrument (the K’ni) that is clasped between the teeth as the local dialectic language is spoken through the
single string. What sounds like an extraterrestrial instrumental to the uninitiated actually contains coded, poetic lyrics. Again, futurist innovators like Theremin, clearly arrived a
little later to the party than commonly claimed.

Let it suffice to say that these artists are a far cry from the lip-synching
karaoke show that we saw on the local cable, with groups of teenagers
cavorting on a soundstage and mouthing the words to K-pop songs—air-Karaoke, if you will—that managed to render something pre-fab even less real.

These elders carry a haunting, but muted sadness that seems only fully revealed through the music that they valiantly keep alive in the face of industrialization, waning regard and interest, and the rapid homogenization and “progress” overtaking their homeland.'”

Hanoi Masters/Glitterbeat: Website Facebook Twitter SoundCloud

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Afous D’Afous

Afous D’Afous: Because there’s more to Tuareg rock than Tinariwen

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The latest Sahelsounds release is a collection of songs by Tuareg rock band Afous D’Afous, one of the Sahara’s best guitar bands and a leading group of what we know as “desert blues” in the West. Based in Tamanrasset in southern Algeria, Afous D’Afous’ music is more upbeat and pop-sounding compared to the serious and heady grooves of Tinariwen, who are probably the most famous Tuareg rock group outside Africa.

From Bandcamp:

“In the past decade, there has been an explosion of ethnically Tuareg rock bands on the world music stage. Built around the electric guitar, the genre ranges from stripped down minimalist nostalgia filled ballads to distortion heavy tracks for dancing. Known collectively in the West as “desert blues” for its pentatonic scales and finger styles that recall Americana, in the Sahara it’s simply known as “guitar.” The style has emerged as contemporary pop music back home and today there are hundreds of bands, playing locally in weddings and public celebrations. The effect of the world music industry is not lost on the Sahara however, and the Western music market still maintains dominance over the Tuareg guitar scene. For the majority of Tuareg “guitar” bands, success still comes via the West. Artists travel abroad to record albums, and there are no shortage of indie-rock heavyweights anxious to jump into the role of producer.

An exception to the rule is Kader Tarhanine’s group “Afous D’Afous.” This six person rock outfit from Tamanrasset in southern Algeria is by all accounts unknown in world music circles. However, at home in the Tuareg community, they are without a doubt the most celebrated, famous, and in demand group, second only to Tinariwen. Kader Tarhanine rose to popularity in 2010, with his recording of a song “Tarhanine Tegla” (My Love is Gone). The track, a low-fi love ballad, recorded with a crunchy electric guitar over a pacing drum machine, went on to become an anthem throughout the diaspora (earning Kader the nickname “Kader Tarhanine”). In 2015, Kader formed his group “Afous D’Afous” and traveled to Algiers to record the full length debut “Tenere.” The 9 track album was released on CD in a limited run in-country, accompanied by a huge press rollout. The band appeared on Algerian national television, quickly becoming a country favorite and representative of the Tuareg ethnic minority. The album quickly disseminated throughout the diaspora, traded on cellphones in the conflicted Azawad, beamed through private WhatsApp pirate networks, and soundtracking smuggler’s routes, blasting from Land Cruisers at high speeds through the border zones of the open desert.

“Tenere” is a departure from the rest of the contemporary Tuareg rock albums. Of the myriad of Tuareg releases that have caught the ear of the West, only a tiny few are produced at home, sans Western producers. “Tenere” offers some of the most complex compositions in the genre to date, tightly arranged and polished. There is something sonically throwback, though Afous D’Afous crawled out of 70s rock studio album. It is long cited that Tuareg rock styles are largely inspired from heavyweights Dire Straits. This may be the most true to form rock album to date, and there is certainly a few riffs that recall Mark Knopfler. The electric guitar, front and center, drives the tracks with uptempo rhythms, all led by the soulful voice of Kader, measured and balanced with the chorus call and response. In addition to this classic rock aesthetic, the production adds some unlikely elements, reflective of contemporary globalism – layering pitch bending North African synthesizer, reverb saturated dub, and even Indian tabla and sitar!

While Tuareg guitar has become a commodity in the world music industry, Afous D’Afous has continued to in relative obscurity, all while remaining one of the most popular guitar outfits amongst Tuareg fans. They tour constantly throughout the Sahara to sold out crowds in Bamako, Niamey, and Agadez. They have yet to tour abroad. The irony is not lost on the band, and we’re excited for the opportunity to partner with them to correct this glaring oversight.

The remastered Sahel Sounds release of “Tenere” pulls together the complete recordings from their debut album, available for the first time outside of the diaspora. The vinyl edition of 1000 features old school 3-color offset printed jackets.”

Afous D’Afous: Website Facebook Twitter

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I Cani

I Cani: the once obscure electro-pop persona now embraces Italian pop

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“Ho paura di tutto, soprattutto dei Cani,” sings Niccolò Contessa on Glamour, the second and central album in the discography of his one man project. It translates to “I’m afraid of everything, especially of I Cani,” and it gives an idea of the complex love/hate relationship between a songwriter and the obscure electro-pop persona he started building six years ago and that reached way more people than he could have dreamed of.

The story of I Cani started in 2011 with the first album Il sorprendente album d’esordio de I Cani. Back then, no one knew Contessa’s real name, and he performed his live shows with a paper bag on his face. What everyone learned to know were his songs, written and produced in his bedroom; catchy synth-driven post-punk gems with brilliant and keen lyrics describing the contradictions of Italy and Italians, with a particular focus on the place where he comes from, a northern neighborhood of Rome.

Ironically, autobiographical elements and a taste for grotesque situations and characters were the keys that led his lyrics to be sung along by the whole indie scene. But he didn’t stop there. A few years later, he got rid of his anonymity and started pushing his career towards a new direction, somewhat close to cult ’80s Italian singers such as Lucio Dalla or Franco Battiato.

His latest album, Aurora, released in 2016, is a display of his newfound maturity. He basically revisits Italian pop. His songs become more conventional, the production hints to dance rhythms, his lyrics reflect his own personal growth. While some of his early fans were disappointed, Aurora is truly a great example of what modern Italian pop rock should sound like, but with the addition of occasional wild synths that he can’t seem to survive without.

I Cani: Facebook Youtube SoundCloud

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Gepe

Gepe: Chilean indie titan keeps mellow folk-pop interesting

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Already a big name in Chile, Gepe‘s mellow folk-pop should be in your collection as well. Check out this great profile of the Chilean artist via Remezcla, and check out his latest music video below.

“Chilean indie titan Daniel Riveros — better known as Gepe — has taken a glittering baseball bat made of sparkly electronics and smashed down every wall that stands between traditional South American folk music and contemporary pop. He’s tinkered with reggaeton, re-energized huayno, and reconstructed cumbia. His style functions like a magical lava lamp, perpetually leaving fans in a state of marvel over his amorphous, incandescent creations…The master of reinvention has flaked off layer after layer to deliver a 10-song album that is minimal and largely acoustic. The songs are so scaled back, they would be forgettable if they weren’t so catchy, and they bring out Gepe’s unvarnished ear for melody and simplicity — a side he showed audiences briefly on his solo debut Gepinto in 2005.”

Gepe: Website Facebook Twitter

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