20. Juan Son-Mermaid Sashimi
Juan Son's first solo outing since the demise of Porter is a symphonic collage of songs in both English and Spanish. Musically, the arrangements are sophisticated, capturing the same imagination the likes of Brian Wilson and XTC had in the past. Juan's high, Bjork-like voice sometimes leaves me with a bit of a headache, but I also can’t stop listening to it, especially the track “Nad,a” somewhere between The Rolling Stones “She’s A Rainbow” and Café Tacvba at their best.
19. Tinariwen-Imidiwan: Companions
Tinariwen's latest release finds the band returning home after constant touring to the Sahara desert. Perhaps their homecoming sparked a return to a sound that I felt they lost on their last release, Aman Iman. Imidiwan has the band once again rocking out. In ways it reminds me of their second album, Amassakoul, but with more vision and clarity this time. With this release, Tinariwen continues to remain the standard of the Toureg rock scene that has grown over the last decade.
18. Zizek-ZZK Vol. 2
The first ZZK Records compilation in 2008 showcased the DJ’s that were part of their weekly club in Buenos Aires. Their remixes of Cumbia spawned both international and bedroom producers alike to make their own Cumbia remix. ZZK Sound Vol. 2 is the result of when something local becomes global. No longer exclusive to Argentina, Vol 2. includes producers from Chile, The Netherlands and Brooklyn, among other places. While the root of the ZZK sound is Cumbia, what it makes it interesting is what the producers’ mix with it. Styles include Dubstep, Dancehall, Hip-Hop, Minimalist Techno and traditional Latin music, all resulting in a sound that is like no other and all ZZK.
17. Chicano Batman-S/T
Imagine one of the multitude of gruperas, hoping one day to become as big as Los Bukis and Yndio, touring central California in a seventies Dodge Van. During the drive to Fresno, the band, dressed in matching baby blue ruffled dress shirts, decide to smoke some grass, drop acid and listen to Caetano Veloso and Televison's Marquee Moon. Chicano Batman’s debut is what I imagine that next gig would sound like; Baladas with space jams, Pop songs with Brazilian breaks and Flange drenched Cumbias. Probably my favorite L.A. band at the moment.
16. V/A- Tropical Funk Experience
We played this in the store one day and the track that really hooked me was a cover of Fela Kuti’s "Black Man’s Cry" played on the steel drums by a group called The Gay Flamingoes. It’s ten minutes of bliss and indicative of the many party gems came from the islands back in the day. Compiler Hugo Mendez dug deep in his collection of Caribbean funk gems to put together amazing assortment of rare grooves and covers, some from artists that are known internationally (The Skatalites, Mighty Sparrow), some from names we are not so familiar with (Andre Tanker, Richard Stoute), but each song seems to top the next. One of the best funk comps to come out in a while.
15. V/A-1970's Algerian Proto-Rai Underground
A collection of singles released by influential Rai musicians in the 70’s that have been mostly unknown or ignored by the majority of Rai music enthusiasts. Songs of affairs and drunkenness did not fair well with the fundamentalist, government controlled airwaves, but these artists were club favorites, mixing Algerian traditional music with western instruments such as trumpet, and in one case, an electric guitar with a wah-wah pedal. Forget your preconceived notions of Rai music and dig this.
14. Mulatu Astatke & the Heliocentrics-Inspiration Information
I consider Mulatu Astatke's work to be on par with Jazz greats such as Duke Ellington, Charles Mingus and Sun Ra. The Heliocentrics are somewhat comparable to The Roots in the sense that they are composers in their own right and great backing musicians for others. The combination of drummer Malcolm Catto, bassist Jake Ferguson and producer Mike Burnham, works well with the legendary Ethiopian Jazz composer Astatke’s compositions that give The Heliocentrics a run for their money, and in turn, The Heliocentrics pump some new life into Mulatu’s work that has been missing for some time. Together, they recorded some of Mulatu’s classic compositions and new material that has that same jazz/psychedelic/funk feel of Astatke’s earlier work with an experimental edge.
13. V/A-Orillas Del Magdalena
Domino Sounds goes a bit deeper in this compilation than Soundway Records' excellent Colombia! Compilation (both labels licensed tracks from the Discos Fuentes catalog), focusing on styles such as Vallenato and Gaita. Orillas Del Magdalena contains some of my personal favorites by the likes of Andres Landero and Nafer Duran. It's almost as if they stole a set list from a great Cumbia deejay and put it all on one LP. I highly recommend this for anyone who wants to know where the true roots of Cumbia come from.
12. MAG All-Stars-The Best Peruvian Orchestras Of The 50's & 60's, Vol. 2 & 3
The Peruvians may have not been the originators of Latin Boogaloo, Salsa or Descargas, but you can hardly tell by the output that came from the MAG label during the 50’s and 60’s. The Latin music from Peru was on par with the music that came out of New York and Havana during the same period and has been an underground favorite for deejays and Salsa enthusiasts alike. I imagine dance floors covered in sweat all over Peru when these bands played. Each song is played faster, with more intensity and with unconventional arrangements. There's plenty of organ and electric guitar to go along with the standard Latin instruments that give the songs somewhat of an “out” sound, which should appeal to the novices as well as the experts.
11. Staff Benda Bilili-Tres Tres Fort
What was an attempt for the four middle-aged men in wheelchairs that make the core of Staff Benda Bilili to become the best-handicapped band in Africa soon made them the new international darlings of the World Music scene. Tres Tres Fort is packed with coolness from beginning to end, with an incredible sound that is all their own. Combining the rhythm and harmonies of Cologolese Rumba with some completely “out there” soloing by Roger Landu, a street kid taken in by the group who plays an instrument he invented called a satonge, which is empty fish can with a single string stretched across it played like a lead guitar. World Music nerds love to over-romanticize stories of musicians that overcome great odds in impoverished countries to bring music to the rest of the world, ala Buena Vista Social Club and Sierra Leone All Star Refugees. Although the story of the group maybe fascinating, it's not the only reason one should check Staff Benda Bilili out. Their music more than speaks for itself.