The Tanzania Albinism Collective Turn Personal Pain Into Emotional Soul

Tanzanian Albinism Collective

Photo by Marilena Delli.

A delicate, hypnotic voice opens White African Power, the first album by Tanzania Albinism Collective, setting the tone for a record built equally on raw vocals, and lyrics that speak candidly of personal tragedy. “The world is hard, and I’m feeling defeated,” singer Christina Wagulu laments in Swahili. “Hatred, jealousy, and other emotions damage my heart / Disease weighs me down like defeat.”

The album’s 23 short songs create an atmosphere intimacy—as if the listener were eavesdropping on a gathering of friends. Far away from those who have shunned and persecuted them, the musicians are unguarded; they sing about the adversity they’ve faced without wallowing in self-pity. Their music is visceral, cathartic, and deeply personal.

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Ten Modern Shoegaze Bands: A Primer

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Given the recent reunions of Ride, Slowdive, Lush, Telescopes, and Swervedriver, collective interest in shoegaze appears to be approaching another peak. For the uninitiated: “shoegazers” were the mostly-English (or, in the case of Jesus and Mary Chain, Scottish) bands that emerged in the late ’80s and who paired wall-of-sound guitars with whispery, sweet pop vocals. The genre tag was initially a dis invented by the British music press—during performances, the musicians spent as much time looking at their sea of guitar pedals as they did the crowd.

As exciting as it is for fans of ’90s shoegaze and dreampop to have the opportunity to see and hear new music from the originators of the scene, the idea that shoegaze died in 1996 with the arrival of Britpop is a fallacy. Even though most of the bands from the original movement had broken up, their music lived on and was embraced in the ’00s by a batch of so-called “new-gaze” bands: Autolux, Loveliescrushing, Asobi Seksu, Serena-Maneesh, and others.

Even if the genre’s pioneers weren’t getting back together, there would still be plenty of great shoegaze records emerging from the underground. With advances in digital technology, which have made creating otherworldly effects easier than ever, a new breed of dreampoppers have surfaced over the past half-decade. While some reach back to My Bloody Valentine and Slowdive, others have incorporated elements of EDM, krautrock, post-rock, and indie rock to create their effect-laden songs.

Here are 10 of the most exciting groups in modern shoegaze.

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This Week’s Essential Releases: Psych-Doom, Rampaging Pogo-Punk, & More

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Welcome to Seven Essential Releases, our weekly roundup of the best music on Bandcamp. Each week, we’ll recommend six new albums, plus pick an older LP from the stacks that you may have missed.

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Big Ups: Sondre Lerche

Sondre Lerche

Photo by Isabell N Wedin.

Sondre Lerche has been pegged a guitar-pop artist since his 2001 debut Faces Down. But his newest album, Pleasure, employs electronic elements liberally—particularly on opening track “Soft Feelings,” which leans heavily on beats reminiscent of New Order. That’s fitting; Lerche’s own tastes have increasingly skewed toward the electronic and, specifically, ambient scenes. It’s a fascination that he traces back to his work soundtracking the 2014 film, The Sleepwalker. 

“I’ve just had this appetite the last few years for a lot of ambient-type music,” the Norwegian singer/songwriter explains. “There’s lots of room for your own presence. Maybe as a contrast to a lot of songwriting that I make that has a certain structure and detail to its composition, I hunger now for music that’s different—that I can exist in and live in while I’m in it. I see it as a room that doesn’t end. There’s nothing that confines you. I really enjoy being inside that music…There’s a lot of good bands and artists that do things that are somehow spiritually related to what I do. But I don’t necessarily need to hear that all the time. I’m in it. I’m making my own twist on it.”

For his entry into Bandcamp’s ongoing Big Ups series, Lerche unpacked his love of soundscapes with five picks from that range from ambient jazz to ambient techno—all music that he praises as having a “very wide horizon.”

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Album of the Day: Vincent Ahehehinnou, “Best Woman”

Vincent Ahehehinnou pitched up in Nigeria with something to prove. It was 1978 and he’d been ousted from popular Benin band the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou at the height of their powers, ending his decade-long association with the group because he challenged the way business was run.

But in a union made in Afrobeat heaven, Ahehehinnou connected with Ignace de Souza at Decca Studios in Lagos, who agreed to serve as his arranger for several unrecorded songs. The result of the pair’s alliance is Best Woman, a funky mix of infectious guitar licks, soulful vocals, and brisk Afrobeat rhythms that added another ripple to the city’s creative surge. Originally released in 1978 on Hasbunalau Records (the same year Ahehehinnou left Orchestre Poly-Rythmo), this long-time rarity finally sees a reissue and master on Analog Africa.

With each of the four tracks going over the eight-minute mark, Ahehehinnou’s arrangements have room to stretch their legs. Take opener “Best Woman,” a smoothly-moving number underpinned by a mid-tempo flow of chipped guitar chords, cooly rapped percussion and plenty of sizzling brass. The band effortlessly slot into the interlocking grooves as Ahehehinnou shuffles between a tuneful harmony with a female singer and a more pleading, spoken-word style vocal. As an affectionate ode to his beau, it works nicely.

The sharp wah-wah guitars and driving rhythm section of “Maimouna Cherie” could have scored a groovy ’70s crime film with amorous horns and Ahehehinnou’s tuneful vocals that soften the edges. With its slinky melody and emotive male-female vocal harmonies, yearning ballad “Vi Deka” almost resembles an old Southeast Asian pop song. “Wa Do Verité Ton Noumi,” meanwhile, offers more offbeat rhythms and twangy guitar plucks that add up to slow-paced psychedelic wig-out.

Best Woman, now pulled from an obscure crack in history, offers modern listeners a swerve back in time to a city that shook to the sound of a hot horn section.

—Dean Van Nguyen