Jun 24, 2011

Karl Hector & The Malcouns - Sahara Swing + exclusive free download


Karl Hector is a new name to me (we’re told he’s the mysterious leader of the Funk Pilots) and he has teamed up with The Malcouns (Thomas Myland and Zdenko Curulija) who have previously dabble in projects like the Berlin Serengeti and released soul/funk 45s on Watou Records and the producer of Poets of Rhythm/Whitefield Brothers, J. Whitefield.

As last week was all about Ethiopiques at Glastonbury, this album takes their Ethio-jazz triumph to the next level as the sand falls off your shoes on the ‘Followed Path’ to Afro-funk-jazz enlightenment. As a side note, what little I saw of Jay Z on TV surely put to rest any doubts that hip-hop can’t top the Saturday night pyramid stage, well done Mr Eavis (as featured in this months’ Songlines).

It’s all here. If you fancy abit of Fela, ‘Debere’ is the track with glorious organ whilst ‘Jabore Pt. 3’ is a slow waddle on a Sun Ra trip to the water-hole. On a percussive tip, ‘Psycles’ gets in a groove and ‘Koloko Pt. 1’ is the funky horn tune.

There’s four short interlude tracks called, Transition >I<, >Z<, >B< & >W< and drift towards the ambient/experimentation side but I l’d like to think there are (at least) 22 more elements (being the rest of the alphabet) in transition that could be put together as one coherent piece; perhaps the bonus disc on the next album? It’s hard to believe this album was recorded in Germany but these guy’s know their stuff as if they’ve smoked Steve Reid’s classic ‘Lion Of Juda’ for the past 20 years and re-invented the sound. The tracks I keep going back to are ‘Nyx’, ‘Followed Path’ and ‘Toure Samar’ as they are as funky as the Dap-Kings, as psychedelic as a walk with Jim Morrison in the desert, as jazzy Sun Ra and as kick-ass as Fela Kuti and James Brown all wrapped up into one.



Music tends to evolve in a manner that rarely produces spontaneous creation of new styles. Rather, in the world of 21st Century pop music, new sounds are typically born from genre hybridization. Thus, we are given the gifts of disco-punk, nü-rave and metal-gaze. These stylistic mashups may not always be successful (if you throw a rap in the middle of a twee-pop song it doesn't work, for example), but the continuous exploration into the blurring of genres can often lead to some impressive, even revolutionary music.

Karl Hector and the Malcouns take stylistic biochemistry to a breathtaking and invigorating level. With roots in both the Sahara and Germany, Karl Hector and the Malcouns combine Afrobeat, Krautrock, jazz and funk in a mixture that yields some of the most innovative and aurally stimulating music to have arrived in recorded form in some time. And given that the band's influences are firmly entrenched in the culture of the experimental '70s, there's a deep and rich analog sound that bathes these mesmerizing tracks. Had I not been supplied with any information surrounding this release, I almost would have assumed it was a lost masterpiece from 30 years ago, and quite frankly, it might as well be.

"When The Sun Breaks Through" has a raw jazz-funk sound that's equal parts Fela and Coltrane, clattering and blaring through a rugged groove. "Nyx," meanwhile, is the first track to truly display the group's Krautrock tendencies. With buzzing keyboards and some kickass funk guitar riffs, "Nyx" is akin to a Neu! and JB's jam session, which I never realized was such a mind-blowing combo. "Followed Path" has a darker groove to it, touched up eerily with psychedelic organ, and the title track creeps with a haunted swagger, like electric Miles Davis in a 1970s cop show.

Given the sounds and techniques that get stirred about therein, Sahara Swing could be a genre unto itself. It's a truly impressive feat when an album can sound vintage and truly innovative, yet this does both. Karl Hector and the Malcouns are true innovators, both visionaries and classicists in a time where neither seems to exist anymore.



Once in a while I can appreciate more light-hearted, less artistic but still enjoyable music. And this one belongs to that category. The music is relatively simple, repetitive and superficial, but it has a great funky drive, and no other aspiration than to bring fun. It brings back musical concepts of the late 60s, especially because of the organ sound, but with the repetitive dance beat of modern music. The good thing is that the tracks are relatively short, so instead of falling asleep for lack of intellectual stimulation or emotional appeal, the variation keeps the attention going. Some of the tracks are great, as "Touré Samar", with a dry funky rhythm guitar, great bass and drums with a powerful horn section, and "Follow The Path", which ressembles some of Mulatu Astatqe's work, yet staying away from the great Ethiopian's soulful music. Don't expect the steaming magic of Fela Kuti either. It funks, it grooves, it sounds African, it sounds jazzy. Most pieces are just bland. I usually hate this kind of music, but well, apparently not today.



For the last six weeks, I’ve spent my drive time cloistered within the soothing cocoon of Fela Kuti’s Expensive Shit/He Miss Road. Accordingly, few contemporary albums have battered through that hermetically sealed, parallel universe where I smoke acres of trees at the Kalakuta Republic circa 1975 while inventing a plethora of dance moves, including the Roger Rabbit, the Cabbage Patch and the Wop.

One of the rare exceptions has been Karl Hector and the Malcouns’ Sahara Swing, released earlier this month on Stones Throw subsidiary, Now-Again Records. Information about Hector is scarce, with his only previous recording experience being one 7-inch that he recorded a dozen years ago as the leader of an ostensibly aviation-themed outfit called the Funk Pilots. But his influences are clear: Fela’s slick, seraphic swing and James Brown’s filthy pigpen funk.

Other cited inspirations include Mulatu Astatke of Ethiopia,Jean-Claude Vannier and Can, the latter being particularly prominent, no doubt partially because of Hector’s Krautrock-weaned German backing band. It’s no Expensive Shit, not even close, but it’s a fun, graceful ride, with both crisp jazzy jams and disco-inflected dance grooves. In fact, here’s a video of me moving to it. Yes, in case you were wondering, the sport coat is C&R.



Stones Throw subsidiary Now Again is out to prove that it's not just a reissue label trying to dig up yesteryear's lost gems; it's also out to prove there are still some dope sounds being constructed today. After last year's Heliocentrics release featuring living legend Malcolm Catto bringing together a group to record a trippy freeform jazz/funk odyssey for a sound appropriately entitled “Out There,” the label follows it up with an albuhttp://www.blogger.com/img/blank.gifm of jams rooted in afrobeat rhythms with funk undertones.

Former Poets Of Rhythm guitarist and producer J. Whitefield funks out with Malcouns founders Thomas Myland and Zdenko Curlija along with Karl Hector and a host of others. The results may not have you doing the worm at the discothèque, but don't underestimate this music's headnod factor.

Clocking in at just over 45 minutes, the mostly instrumental disc grooves through world rhythms and nu-funk simmered with a dash of tasty rhythmic seasoning. Throughout the set, intermissions lead us from one course to the next. “Rush Hour,” which leans less on afrobeat and more toward traditional funk, hits you with a swirling organ, steady bass, and tight snares. One section even sounds like killer bees swarming!



It's amazing what Europeans can come up with these days. The Malcouns, a loosely-knit ensemble of world music wiseguys, have unleashed a fascinating experiment in mixing authentic African grooves with funk and free jazz. Listeners might find this music bizarre and unhinged, or will wonder why nobody thought of it before. But either way the resulting skanky groove is artistically fresh, technically astounding, and you can totally bug out to it. The Malcouns surely understand the sounds, structures, and instrumentation of various styles of African music. But the real fun is when the troupe adds the chicken scratch guitar of the lowdownest funk and the off-kilter horns and percussion of the wildest big band jazz.

All of these can be found in the top-of-the-album showpiece "Nyx," while looselimbed rhythm workouts like "Sahara Swing" and "Psycles" sound like what Miles Davis would have birthed if he had truly made it into deepest darkest Africa during his sonic explorations back in 1969. Other highlights include the spooky "Jabore Pt. 3" and the funky soul of "Passau Run," which wouldn't sound out of place on a souped-up version of Dr. Funkenstein's Mothership. These German studio vets surely lack the political and cultural influences that really got their favorite African, jazz, and funk masters into the righteous groove. But the groove is here nonetheless, with an absolutely fascinating mix of seemingly incompatible sounds that can work together in surprisingly skanky ways.



01. When The Sun Breaks Through
02. Nyx
03. Followed Path
04. Transition >J<
05. Sahara Swing
06. Psycles
07. Transition
08. Koloko Pt. 1
09. Debere
10. Transition
11. Jabore Pt. 3
12. Mystical Brotherhood
13. Timely Interuption
14. Transition
15. Mellow (Version)
16. Rush Hour
17. Transition
18. Toure Samar
19. Passau Run

Exclusive Free Download:

Karl Hector & The Malcouns - Live at ChoiceCuts

"This show is a recording from May 09 with our good friends Karl Hector & The Malcouns who have performed for us about 6 times now. One of the tightest collectives of musicians we have had the pleasure of welcoming to ChoiceCuts, this show will take you all over the world with some incredible rhythms, melodies and arrangements all tied together with afro-tinged funk music originating from the Southern Sahara and played by some of the tightest German funk musicians you can hear these days."


Here we go ...

Karl Hector & The Malcouns live at ChoiceCuts by ChoiceCuts

This show is a recording from May 09 with our good friends Karl Hector & The Malcouns who have performed for us about 6 times now. One of the tightest collective of musicians we have had the fortune of playing for us, this show will take you all over the world with some of the most interesting rhythms, melodies and arrangements...

Free download at ChoiceCuts Soundcloud page here!

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