Monday, February 22, 2010

Chillin' with the Rip - Featuring Alex Cuba, Me'Shell Ndegeocello, Brookville, and Puracane

Sometimes you just want to turn off the noise.  Find something with a gentler vibe, more soothing, less harsh.  With that in mind, we present another in our occasional columns of Ripple recommendations for music to Chill to.

Agua del PozoAlex Cuba - Agua Del Pozo

Quite some time ago, my wife and I ditched society and decided to spend the night out on my father's sailboat.  Not to go sailing, mind you, just to use it as a floating hotel.  We'd been working too hard, felt stressed and just wanted to get away.  The boat was the perfect place.  Just sleeping in a different place, out on the water, was rejuvenating.  The next morning as we awoke we heard the most amazing music; gentle, floating harmonies, lilting voices, angelic acoustic guitars.  That music brought us into the morning as the sun was rising.  Grabbing a cup of coffee, I asked the guy in the boat next door who that fantastic singer was.  Alex Cuba was his reply.

Alex Cuba is truly the new face of Latin soul.  Cuban by birth, but living in Canada, Alex Cuba's music is about as jovial and transcendent as you can imagine.  Alex's voice is smooth as the water was that early morning.  His music exudes a spiritual sense of harmony and purpose, and the melodies . . . ah, the melodies.

It doesn't matter where you drop the needle on this baby, you're going to find some simply moving Latin acoustic guitar dancing in and around a mellow Latin beat.  This isn't get up and dance, shake your "vida loca" music, Alex's music is deeply reflective, nearly sublime.  Sure it's all in Spanish, but it doesn't take a translator to express the sentiment of loss in "Lamento," or the reaching to the sky optimism of "Amor Infinito."   Emotion is emotion, truth is truth, and Alex Cuba is an artist very capable of finding that truth.  A simply gorgeous album.

buy here: Agua del Pozo

Devil's HaloMe'shell Ndegeocello - Devil's Halo

There are only a small handful of artists who's music I'll buy completely unheard.  Nothing more than a mention that there's a new album out and I'll get it.  Not only that, but I'll find all the extended mixes, buy the singles, and pray for a live bootleg to make it's way somewhere within my arm's reach.  Me'shell Ndegeocello is one such artist.  Ever since her stunning debut of roustabout feminist groove funk, Plantation Lullabies, I've been under Me'shell's spell, and never once has she failed to deliver.

Now, what does that last sentence really mean?  Have I loved unabashedly everything she's ever done? No, not really.  But I've never failed to respect it.  Meshell's not an artist willing to ever sit still.  After carving out two dynamite urban funk albums, she changed gears completely with the mellow somberness of Bitter, then launched herself into freeform jazz territory, always bringing her amazing, looping bass with her.  With this, her latest album, Me'shell once again refuses to be pigeonholed.

Mixing in tones of rock, ambient and even noise rock with her under belly of funk and soul, Me'shell has produced a devastating album of love lost and vulnerability.  Never before has she worn her heart so openly on her sleeve and so clearly bruised and bleeding.  Songs like "Mass Transit," bounce with a familiar Ndegeocello funk (you gotta dig her bass line and vocal phrasing) but even there, the song is sparser, more bare, nearly raw.  On other songs like "Slaughter," and "Lola" the pain is so thick it hangs like a funeral tapestry.  With lyrics like "Don't say you love me/I'll run away/my love will lead you to slaughter/if you see me coming, I'd run the other way," you know we're in for something intense.

And intense it is.  Through the ambient tones of "Tie One On," through the addiction spiral of "Lola" all the way to the ending "Crying in Your Beer," Me'shell has produced a captivating album that drips with the rawness of emotion.  And through it all, Me'shell's voice has never sounded better, smoother, more refined.  At times, her tone almost sounds like Sade, and that's meant as a high compliment, not an insult, as her tone works perfectly here.

Once again, Me'shell has mystified me.  Once again I'm captivated.

Buy here: Devil's Halo

Broken LightsBrookville - Broken Lights

This album took me entirely by surprise.  Don't know what I expected.  Maybe something bluesy, maybe something country-ish?  Not here.  Brookville play a mesmerizing blend of slow-to-mid-tempo, neo-jazzy modern rock.  Immediately names like Prefab Sprout popped into my mind (particularly on the male and female vocal interplay of "Break My Heart.").   Then came other names like The Blue Nile, Level 42, Aztec Camera, and Ripple favorites, The Philosopher Kings.  All great purveyors of mood and nuance.

And that's what we have here.  A beautiful album of mood and nuance.  Crystal clear guitars highlight the gentle tone, leaving tons of room for some of the lushest melodies you'll ever hear. "Happy" is anything but, a song dripping with the pain of deception and lies.  But you wouldn't know that from the melody.  It simply soars and floats, instantly catchy, instantly addictive.  "Great Mistake," follows suit with just a hint of more buoyancy in the lilting tempo, while the lyrics reach into the deepest realm of juxtaposition.  "If you really love me,  you would let me make the great mistake of leaving you."  One listen to the hypnotic melancholy of "Dreaming On," and I was hooked for life.

Andy Chase, the lead man in Brookville, has crafted an album more of tone than actual beat.  The darkness of a somber sky hangs over this album like a field of crushed and empty dreams.  But rather than being a downer, the pure melodicsm of Andy's writing keeps the album from ever becoming cliche, or melodramatic, or even a downer.  It's strange when an album of ambivalent love can come across so pleasant, but there you have it.  Not one to miss.

Buy here: Broken Lights

I've Been Here The LongestPuracane - I've Been Here the Longest

Chill out music is supposed to fill that late night gap after the clubs have closed but before the day has broken into full intensity.  When I think of chill out, or trip hop, I tend to think of bands like Massive Attack or Portishead.  And now I'll add Puracane to that list.

Essentially a duo, Puracane is a collaborative effort between composer/producer Juan Massotta and singer/lyricist Ali Rogers, and also combines the talents of Chris Lee on bass, Emilio Teubal on keyboards and Antonio"Uka" Gameiro on drums. Coming purely from the world of British trip-hop (Rogers has worked with Tricky among others), Puracane still manage to sound unlike any of their predecessors by incorporating some strong songwriting craft, actual singable melodies and some gentle R&B groove. Throughout the album, the rhythms have a steady consistency, which perfectly fits the songs' come-down-from-a-rough-night feeling.

From the first moment of undulating bass, to the very second that Ali adds her heavenly vocals, I can already feel the tension of my day melting away.  This isn't ambient, background music.  The bass, the melodies, the beat demand your attention, but in a groovy way.  Not a scream, just an insistence based on that groove.  That always present groove.  Fans of the above bands shouldn't miss this one.

Buy here: I've Been Here The Longest


1 comment:

suomynona said...

I enjoyed reading your review of Meshell's latest. I hope you'll find some of the (approved) bootleg video that I shot and posted on youtube... :)

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