Album of the Day: Cosmic Analog Ensemble, “Les Sourdes Oreilles”

Producer Charif Megarbane creates many different styles of music—folk, avant-soul, experimental jazz, funk, and disco—each blending uniquely different from the next. In most cases, artists who tamper with that much music usually fall short somewhere. But for Megarbane—who records under the names Heroes & Villains, Trans-Mara Express, and Cosmic Analog Ensemble—he’s able to do right by each genre, keeping the traditional aspects of each while adding his own spin.

On Les Sourdes Oreilles (“The Deaf Ears” in French), Megarbane’s latest album as Cosmic Analog Ensemble, the composer opts for cinematic 1970s funk and soul, the type you’d hear in a spaghetti western or Quentin Tarantino flick. Using electric and acoustic guitars, flutes, and clavinet (among many other instruments), Megarbane builds a lush, beautifully constructed suite—incredibly haunting and robust, nodding to the orchestral soul of forefathers Curtis Mayfield, David Axelrod, and Isaac Hayes, and newer conductors like Adrian Younge and BADBADNOTGOOD. While there are standout songs, Les Sourdes Oreilles should be played without breaks to thoroughly absorb its scene-setting ambience. This is a fluid arrangement, each track blending seamlessly into the next for a textured listen.

Oreilles harbors a distinct ‘70s ethos, yet it draws from the same well of which rapper Ghostface Killah and producer Madlib pull their sounds. On songs like “Petite Fleur Industrielle” and “Résilience,” you can almost hear MF DOOM rapping about cookies and New York license plates. With its methodical drum knock and sinister organ stabs, “Le Dernier Mot” begs for Ghost’s rapid-fire falsetto. All told, Les Sourdes Oreilles is a crate-digger’s dream, a magnum force of infectious grooves and sample-ready melodies that feel rare and familiar at the same time. Despite all the great releases from Megarbane to this point, Les Sourdes Oreilles is easily one of his best.

Marcus J. Moore

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