TGU remain a creative force to be reckoned with.
Michael Quinn 2009
Almost two decades after first forming, Transglobal Underground last year picked up gongs at two BBC ceremonies: a World Music Award in the Club Global category from Radio 3 for studio album Moonshout; and, for their contribution to The Imagined Village’s debut, a Radio 2 Folk Award for Best Traditional Track. Now comes this long overdue survey of classic and key tracks from one of the most distinctive and influential bands to come out of anywhere in a generation.
A barnstorming compilation of greatest hits, live favourites, rare cuts and two exclusive tracks, Run Devils and Demons starts at the beginning with 1991’s anthemic ‘Temple head’ and comes bang up to date with new Moonshout-derived single Dancehall Operator, and a belting live glow lighters-in-the-air account of Drums of Navaron’ from last year’s Châlons-en-Champagne festival.
There isn’t a single weak song on this intelligently programmed 26-track survey. The decade-old vinyl version of 70s’ disco homage, Scorc’, still bewitches; the earlier collision of Rajastani and Indian influences in Ali Mullah, complete with the awesome vocals of Natacha Atlas, continues to exert its own parched pull on the senses; 2003’s ‘Kingsland Meltdown’ remains a magnificent aural portrait of London’s Dalston Junction; and the much sought-after Lionrock kick da flavour remix of International Times, previously only available on a Spanish import, is here in all its seriously funky glory.
It’s impossible not to get caught up in the swirling blend of Bengali and Big Beat in the thumping Body Machine or to resist the scorched intoxications of the sitar-saturated The Khaleegi Stomp. And from very early TGU days, The Army Of Forgotten Souls still sways, swoons and sweats its way through a Moroccan train journey to skin-prickling effect.
It’s all, of course, a touch nostalgic, with the unlikely combining of evaporating ambient soundscapes and dark, dream-like mid-nineties trip-hop in Ancient Dreams Of The Sky, and the blues-inflected Nile Delta Disco no less evocative than the magnificently drum-laden Sky Giant or, for that matter, much else here.
Crucially, though, there’s not a speck of dust here. Everything leaps out of the speakers with a freshness, vitality, vigour and fabulously wide musical sensibility that is its own irresistible recommendation. In their heyday, Transglobal Underground did more than most to give dance music a good name and to proselytize for world music. Pioneers then, pioneers still, TGU remain a creative force to be reckoned with.