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World Music CD Reviews, June 2007

Album of the Month

March Fourth Marching Band CD cover

March Fourth Marching Band: March Fourth Marching Band

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One look at this album's cover, and you are absolutely certain that you have no idea what to expect inside. The fancy crest surrounded by winged unicorns and elephants on stilts. And inside...photos of band members in a crazy mishmash of retro marching band and cheerleader outfits and gothwear. Pop in the CD and the sounds puzzle the ears just as the images puzzle the eyes. No fewer than 23 bandmembers are listed, and they make a tremendous wall of sound, like the bastard offspring of a Balkan backstreet one-night stand between a Rajastani wedding band and a traveling circus. If you've seen them live, you'll know that their mother was a circus; their show includes something like a dozen dancers, stilt walkers, and fire eaters. I have no idea how they can all get paid for what they do, but what they do is wonderful and well worthy of your attentions. Get their CD, then get yourself to their live show.

©2007 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media

THIS JUST IN! ... New World Music CD Releases


Alamaailman Vasarat: Maahan (WolfGang)

This is the soundtrack to a continent that exists only in the minds of the musicians. The band's name translates as "The Hammers of the Underworld" and their music follows the name's implications...sort of. Beats hammer at your head, but these beats are as much of brass as of the usual heavy-music tools of drums and guitars. I don't have much info to go on; the CD's insert has no notes at all, just photos of the musicians' ears. Seriously. From the frantic pace of "Helmi Otsalla" to the cello-heavy langour of Rooman Ruumiit" and the brief classical finale "Elukka," this album is unremittingly odd and entertaining, whether you consider it world music or ethnic punk or progressive rock, or something else entirely.

Vieux Farka Toure Remixed: UFOs over Bamako (Modiba)

I tend to frown upon remixes of music that's already perfectly wonderful. And the electronic pulse that opens this album didn't do much to change my mind. But as remixes go, this isn't a bad bunch. Chris Annibell's remix of "Wosoubour," for example, brings out a funky soul element of the original song and Captain Planet gives "Ana" a great Afrobeat treatment (much more appealing than GOONDA's transformation of "Ana" into a throbbing club piece). If you're on the fence, consider that a portion of the proceeds of this album (and the original album) are donated to Bee Sago to combat malaria in Niafunke, Mali.

Pink Martini: Hey Eugene! (Heinz)
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The arrival of this album rekindled a debate about just where to file the music of Pink Martini. Eclectic only hints at the crazy stylistic schizophrenia of the Portland-based group. The station's jazz director suggests creating a new music library section labeled WTF. But the music... it begins with "Everywhere," sounding like something from a 1950s musical (upon hearing it, my sweetie launched into a graceful spontaneous dance, only Gene Kelly was missing). Then it's off to Latin lands with "Tempo Perdido," a 90-degree swerve to Japan for "Taya Tan." Get the idea? There's even an Arabic tune, "Bukra Wba'do (Tomorrow and the Day After)." No matter what language or style, vocalist China Forbes shines, and the band does wonderful things that are at once cool and loungey, hip and retro. Uncategorizable, sure, but wonderful nonetheless.

©2007 Scott Allan Stevens, Earball Media



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