|Tcham Em Paz||Nana||4:33|
|Fim de Semana||Nana||4:28|
|Esperanca d'Bo Presenca||Nana||4:21|
|Culpado E Amor||Nana||4:08|
|Suplica d'um Criola||Nana||5:12|
Marbles is Robert Schneider of Apples in Stereo's solo project, and Expo marks the first full-length album since Schneider mothballed the name with the formation of the Apples in 1993. The m.o. is very Apples-like, with loads of their trademark catchy melodies, slightly trippy lyrics, swirling guitars, and sonic textures. But instead of the usual '60s psych-pop influences and song structures, ELO seems to be the major influence at work, with tracks like "When You Open" and the pulsating "Magic" sounding like an unlikely lo-fi Jeff Lynne project. The record is filled with vocoders, electronically treated vocals, cheap drum machines, tinny synths, and robotic beats. At its best on songs like "Move On" (wait for the moving guitar/synth duet at the song's climax) and the dreamy "Out of the Zone," the electronics are added somewhat organically and give Schneider's sometimes reedy vocals and simple songs a much-needed boost. A few of the songs don't work quite as well; "Circuit"'s vocoder and the song's nagging melody give the song an overly gimmicky sound, and the record's instrumentals ("Jewel of India," "Hello Sun," and "Blossoms") aren't of much interest. These are small flaws, and the strength of the rest of the record makes up for them.
The record was mixed by Mark Linnett of Beach Boys and SMiLE revisited fame, and he shows his versatility by creating a sound almost directly opposite to the lush SMiLE sound, instead making Expo sound like it was recorded in Schneider's sock drawer. In a good way, though. Like Guided By Voices, Marbles (and the Apples) work better when they sound small and full to bursting, and Expo is no exception to that rule. Apples in Stereo fans will dig this record.
Taking his mixtape skills to another level, Tony Touch shepherds a sprawling guest list deep into his world of hip-hop underground beats and spicy Latin flavors, with excellent results. Touch blends the diverse styles of Sean Paul, Slick Rick, Rubén Blades, and some Wu-Tang-ers by keeping his beats very New York Hispanic, and very real. Most tracks feel like stream of consciousness freestyles -- especially when Touch grabs the mike -- but here and there Piece Maker, Vol. 2 offers up a song. A direct tale of trouble in the hood, Slick Rick's "Trouble on the Westside Hwy" returns the rapper to his rightful place as king of the gruesomely humorous.
Sean Paul's cut is welcome reggaeton rather than limp crossover, and N.
E.'s swaggering Spanglish bridges the gap between Fat Joe and Juju's hard raps and Touch's salsa breaks. The skits are actually funny, the ghost of the S.O.S. Band turns up, and it's all blended so well the album feels more effortless than ambitious. It's the album's biggest problem, and one wishes the producer had come up with that extra track that would have turned Piece Maker, Vol. 2 into a classic. But for a casual and languid ride through the downtown, you can always turn to Touch.
The mad tribal music of Burkina Electric is even more intensified on Paspanga than on their previous releases. While at times sounding more in the moment and less processed, the group does concentrate on layering of sounds that are acoustic in nature coming from Africa, but brought kicking and screaming into the digital future. Main vocalist Mai Lingani seems possessed in a blood fever of excitement throughout this vibrant set of music that keeps energy at a high level. Guitarist Wende K. Blass maintains the rhythmic West African tradition; Lukas Ligeti bonds the band with searing, galvanized beats along with Pyrolator, both spurred on by technology. Where the consistency of the songs from track to track is evident, they switch things up internally. "Gom Zanga" is where highlife meets disco from an organic standpoint, "To Mi To Zi" is more deliberate and shouted out in R&B get-down fashion, and the shaker beat of "La Voix du Boulgou" makes distant vocals sound shamanic in an ancestral visage. Outer space sounds and the kora merge for the spooky, mysterious, echoed love song "Mdloe," and organ spikes with multilingual gibberish identify the unusual "Bobo Yengué." Lingani's prime feature "Nongui Taaba" presents a heaven's gate love/not-love dilemma as church-type organ fuels the fires of doubt. As you listen more, you are able to understand the underlying cultural dialects present in every track, not to mention that the dance factor is infectious. Truly unique unto themselves, Burkina Electric are evolving far beyond any other group even remotely similar, and hopefully they can tour to translate this spectacular, stimulating music to dancehalls and concert stages.