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FANFARAI BIG BAND Rai Is Not Dead Tour’n’sol FAN 003

Rai is a form of Algerian and eastern Moroc- can folk music that dates back to the 1920s. During the 1970s there was a huge surge in the popularity of rai with the introduction of electric guitars and synths, and it became every bit the people’s music as much as reg- gae, punk or hip-hop. To many people, today, the public face of rai has been Khaled.

This is Fanfarai’s third release and it is a resurrection of 1970s rai when the music was emphatic, underground and despised by the status quo. Don’t expect too much of the Cheb Khaled sound from Fanfarai, though they do give him the occasional passing nod. Whereas Khaled was synth heavy with a dis- tinctive, almost reggae, guitar-led rhythm, Fanfarai are heavily brass-driven, taking much inspiration from traditional Algerian street bands, and the guitar’s role has been largely taken over by the electric piano… and boy, do I love the sound of that electric piano, rich, funky and tightly in the groove.

The band are big with twelve members. Arrangements are tight with tantalising quotes from other musical styles – was that a riff from Love Supreme on track six, Diri Yadik, I just heard? Their 1970s preoccupation with brass at times gives an almost hi-life feel to the music. Exuberant, cosmopolitan, jazzy and hip, this disc is a celebration and confirmation of the communicative power and versatility of music. I bet live this band are a killer. Give a yourself a treat and have a listen, you will absolutely find that rai is not dead. Mark T RURA In Praise Of Home RURA RURACD002

RURA are a multi-award-winning, avant- garde Scottish folk quartet. They appeared on BBC Scotland’s Hogmanay Live at New Year 2016/2017, which was broadcast live to the world from Glasgow. This, their third album, is their first exclusively original and instrumental album, following the departure of vocalist Adam Holmes. RURA’s current line- up is Jack Smedley (fiddle), Steven Blake (bag- pipes, whistles, Rhodes piano), Adam Brown (guitar, electric guitar, electric bass, moog) and David Foley (bodhran, flute).

In Praise Of Home is RURA’s most con- temporary and collaborative work to date, recorded with producer Euan Burton. The title track is a good example of their distinc- tive brand of music with intensely lyrical and emotive tunes played on fiddle and pipes against an intoxicating and dreamlike elec- tronic soundscape conjured by electric gui- tars, moog and Rhodes piano.

The compositions throughout the album have big, atmospheric arrangements, with the instruments alternating from sad ele- gance to rhythmic intensity. Wild and wistful fiddle, pipe and flute melodies slowly build and coalesce into an explosion of energy, combining with electric guitars and key- boards to create a whirling trance-inducing music that is frenetic yet contemplative at the same time. The spaced-out electronic sound- scapes backdrop the cascading, syncopated tunes with hypnotic repeated chords and arpeggios to near-psychedelic effect.

This would be perfect music to listen to when driving through the night. It feels simultaneously ancient and very modern. If the next Blade Runner film were set in Scot- land, this could be the soundtrack. Paul Matheson


& OBRAD MILIĆ Serbian War Songs Broken Silence 0023

I first heard this album after Womex in Katowice where the affable Svetlana Spaji´c had included it amongst several other records I was gifted at the Serbian music stand. One of the rare times where I’ve heard a few sec- onds of music and immediately dropped everything to listen to the whole album.

To my ears, this is exceptional, mesmeris- ing music. A near-perfect fusion of splendid contemporary art music with heavy-hearted Balkan folk-singing. My regular listening includes much which is avant-garde as well as much which is deeply traditional. Here they come together in an uncompromised atomic fusion creating a new form. And it is more than hard to create new forms rather than half-baked dabblings but this album does it.

Zeitkratzer’s part-composed, part-impro- vised (I assume) soundscapes are like bottom- less hell-pits where ragged spectres stagger under the weight of their chains. The music takes you not just in but down; far down into aural imagination, into sound theatre, where with eyes closed, the listener can imagine the fields after the battle, where war is shorn of the illusion of glory and the palliative of mar- tyrdom. Where its a-human (but all too human) blackness is revealed as starkly as in Goya’s Disasters Of War.

This is also an album. It is like a book, a complete work rather than a collection. Every piece connects with every other. Surely, my album of the year.

Details: German-based Zeitkratzer are nine musicians including the group’s director, pianist Reinhold Friedl (who also produced the recordings). The concept was Friedl and Spaji´c’s. Serbian folksingers (all great) Spaji´c, Tomi ´c and Mili´c share the singing, including much exquisite (dis)harmonic polyphony. Mili´c also plays diple (a traditional wind- instrument) and gusle (a traditional single- stringed instrument) and provided the album’s longest piece – an epic recitative about the assassination in Sarajevo of Arch- duke Franz Ferdinand, the heir presumptive to the Austro-Hungarian throne, by a largely Serbian group of conspirators which sparked the First World War. The booklet’s notes are in Serbian and English as are the lyrics and texts. Given Serbia’s recent history as aggres- sor or co-aggressor, I should say that most or all of the songs are about WW1 and none are recent. Most of the texts are laments of one


kind or another, some are paeans yet per- formed in a way which – to my mind – under- cuts notions of national heroism with the bloody reality of untimely and horrific death. Nick Hobbs

DAMIEN O’KANE Avenging & Bright Pure PRCD46

An album which is light on its feet and virtual- ly skates through the eleven tracks. It uses technology, programming and such, but far from making the tracks smooth and over-pro- duced it actually accentuates the smart playing and adds a dash of funk. And if I read him cor- rectly, Damien O’Kane likes to throw spanners in the works. He’s on record as saying he wants to challenge what people expect from a bloke who was known as an ace banjo player and see how far he can push presumptions about Irish music. Areas Of High Traffic set out his stall a couple of years back, and here he fol- lows up with panache and a crew who think alike and play in an almost telepathic manner allowing for flights of fancy throughout.

Opening with Boston City a slow build over synth washes, light percussion and chim- ing guitars, before jumping into a bouncy Poor Stranger full of fancy picking and a lyric with a happy ending. The title track is a seri- ous meeting of electronic and acoustic inten- tions with wah wah runs, its source a poetic translation of an old Ulster myth set to a self- composed tune, followed by another like- minded meeting of technology and tradition on Castle Kelly’s. Dave Goulder’s January Man gets an entirely appropriate, chilly setting, the ticking percussion reflecting a clock rolling time along.

O’ Kane admits he’s still in thrall to Paul

Brady’s epic setting of Homes Of Donegal, but pays due reverence with a gentle arrangement of electric guitar and keyboard, his voice right on the money. Here his musi- cians are at their most sensitive; take a bow Steven Byrnes, Tony Davis, Steven Iveson, Josh Clark. Of course there’s more, a great spring- ing guitar line about Many’s The Night and a cute jig Dancing In Puddles, so you can for- give them the tongue-in-cheek, Dark Ages cover photography which was probably great fun to shoot anyway. The whole thing’s wrapped up in a chunky package of visuals, notes and references, and overall is thor- oughly enjoyable. Listen with an open mind and expect to smile. Simon Jones

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