The Unexplained Sounds Group, the netlabel run by sound artist Raffaele Pezzella, aka Sonologyst, has with its latest various artists compilation delved into the largely unexplored territory of contemporary experimental music from the African continent. For that reason alone the collection is worth hearing. But the music itself makes its own case for listening. The fourteen tracks give evidence of a creative ferment that meld Western electronics with the musical heritages of the various cultures of that highly diverse continent. A good number of the pieces included in the anthology are rooted in song — in the cyclical rhythms of a given region or in the melodic lines built on traditional modes. For example, several tracks, of which Ahmed Saleh’s Right Side is representative, feature North African vocal, flute or oud music as source material for processing or as a musical framework for electronic overlay and embellishment. Other pieces — AMET’s Imposer Le Savoir and In_o’s track, which seems to be based on a recording of Jiddu Krishnamurti speaking – represent a variety of musique concrete where radio transmissions or other samples are electronically rearranged. There also are more conventionally “experimental,” abstract electronic works, such as Abdellah M. Hassak’s two contributions. This is a fine collection that provides insight into an area of musical experiment that isn’t yet well-enough known.
Elephantine, an LP devoted to new music from Cairo guitarist/pianist/composer Maurce Louca, shows a different, jazz-influenced side of contemporary African music. For this recording, Louca put together a group of twelve international musicians in which North African oud, violin, and vocals are juxtaposed or mixed with Western jazz instrumentation of reeds, tuba, vibraphone, and bass and drums. The music is a successful, organic fusion of jazz timbres and improvisation with North African modality and rhythms.