Tag Archives: Cosmic Analog Ensemble

Album of the Day: Cosmic Analog Ensemble, “Une Vie Cent Détours”

Which Cosmic Analog Ensemble album is your favorite? You’d be forgiven for needing a few minutes to decide. The Lebanese producer Charif Megarbane has released over 70 records in the past half decade, both under his C.A.E. moniker as well as through various side projects. The recently released Une Vie Cent Détours, one of Megarbane’s best in that span, feels like a cloudy day at the beach—a psychedelic spin through the beat-heavy world of Cosmic Analog Ensemble.

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The Best Albums of 2017: #80 – 61

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We’ll be revealing the full list, 20 albums at a time, this whole week.

Last year, the Bandcamp Daily staff put together our first “Best Albums of the Year List,” 100 albums we felt defined 2016 for us. At the time I remember thinking, “This is tough, but it will probably get easier as the years go on.” Now, one year later, I’m realizing that I was wrong. The truth is, the world of Bandcamp is enormous, and it contains artists from all over the world, in every conceivable genre (including a few who exist in genres of their own invention), and at every stage of their career. The fact of the matter is, any list like this is going to fall short because, on Bandcamp, there is always more to discover. Right now, there’s probably someone in their bedroom in Buenos Aires, making a record on their computer that is going to end up on next year’s list. So as comprehensive as we’ve tried to make this list, we realize that, even at 100 albums, we’re only scratching the surface of what’s available. The albums that made this list, though, were the ones that stayed with us long after they were released—the ones we returned to again and again and found their pleasures undimmed, and their songs still rewarding.

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The Best Albums of Summer 2017

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Every three months, the Bandcamp Daily editorial staff combs through the stacks to present our favorite records of the year to date. The albums presented here run the stylistic spectrum, everything from noise to indiepop to hip-hop to everything in between. And if you like what you see here, check out our picks for winter and spring of 2017, too.

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A Guide to The Many Faces of Multi-Instrumentalist Charif Megarbane

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If releasing just one album a year takes patience and focus, then multi-instrumentalist Charif Megarbane is one of the most patient and focused people around. As of this writing, his Bandcamp page boasts 68 records recorded under several different aliases: Cosmic Analog Ensemble, Heroes & Villains, Trans-Mara Express, Cz101, Firahc Enabragem, and more.

Originally from Lebanon, Megarbane has lived in Nairobi, Kenya for the past eight years, where he runs the one-man operation Hisstology Records. His mostly instrumental music is informed by everything from classic soul and scintillating afrobeat, to beat-tape boom-bap and vintage Italian movie scores. From the artwork for the albums to the music they contain, the Hisstology Bandcamp page resembles a 1970s vinyl rack. That Megarbane records under dozens of names is intentional: He wanted Hisstology to feel like a fully-functioning, multi-artist label with a throwback ethos.

“It’s not about me showing my face or having my name spread around, it’s more about trying to recreate the magic—trying to fool the listener,” Megarbane says, speaking by phone from his Nairobi home. “It’s an extension of the playful thing that I’m trying to do with the music itself.”

Megarbane is not a full-time musician—which seems impossible given his intense release schedule. In fact, he estimates he only releases about five percent of what he records. “It’s quite a playful thing,” he says. “A bit of a stream of consciousness, where I just switch the machines on and whatever inspiration comes in, I keep,” he says. “I listen back to the stuff and [release] whatever sticks.”

As it turns out, recording is the easy part. Megarbane says that selecting cuts and assembling tracklists often takes longer. Some projects feature a collection of songs recorded over six to nine months. He calls these “oven albums.” Others are recorded more far more quickly—his “microwave albums.”

“An album, it’s usually a very precise idea, with a bunch of songs usually tied together cosmetically in terms of style. And that’s usually my aim, to do everything in one week, from the artwork to the recording. It’s a bit like a sport.”

Delving into such a broad body of work might seem unnerving. Not to worry, though. Here are some of Megarbane’s key releases, described in the artist’s own words.

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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