Various Artists The Rough Guide to Undiscovered World Review

Released 2012.  

BBC Review

A high-quality collection of labyrinthine fusions from tantalisingly unfamiliar artists.

Martin Longley 2012

Not only is the music on this compilation "undiscovered", it’s also unusual in terms of how it came to be. The tracks were all uploaded in response to the World Music Network’s invitation to take part in its Battle of the Bands competition.

Despite this record's contention that most of its contents are previously unreleased, many of the tracks appear to be lifted from existing albums, some of them on WMN’s own Introducing series, as part of its Riverboat imprint. Perhaps these albums exist only in the bedrooms of the artists, or maybe they received a very limited circulation.

Two of the wildest tracks come from Indonesian combos. The opening explosion of Sudanese in Bali from Saratuspersen is a manic multi-part shunt, jacking from madcap yelping to a relatively calm gamelan metallophone interlude, complete with slurping electric bass. Then there’s an outbreak of Balinese hip hop, cutting into New Orleans horn-bouncing, lunatic vocal tangles contorting up to the climax. All this in five minutes of extremely compelling freakiness.

Later, Suaramantra offer a comparable mash-up with Putri Mandalika. It moves towards a flute/drum workout, then returns to a floating drift, and concludes with an evocative female vocal which phases into a guitar solo.

There’s nimble Chinese funk from Shanren (Thirty Years), Ethiopian pop by the Krar Collective (Guragigna) and Polish drum’n’bass-goes-folk with Chlopcy Konta Basia (Jerzy). The Gambian ritti player Juldeh Camara is the most established act here, and his one-stringed fiddle is paired with the conventional violin of Griselda Sanderson in their Julaba Kunda project.

Greek combo Trio Tekke have also made a splash, appearing at the 2012 Latitude Festival, their set subsequently aired by Late Junction. Further wily slanting is provided by Zmei Trei, delivering Romanian folk music with two chromatic harmonicas, while Zimbawean mbira thumb piano sounds meet Scandinavian jazz saxophone-and-voice sensibilities on Monoswezi’s Hondo.

The only sonic confrontation that almost goes too far is that of Pax Nindi’s Marakatu Mbira. It sounds like two different bands in two different rooms, with nervous percussion cavorting around the perimeter.

But the standards are mostly high throughout this set, the fusions ridiculously labyrinthine and the artists tantalisingly unfamiliar.

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