Etenesh & Le Tigre (Des Platanes): Ethiosonic (2008)
This wonderful collaboration of the French jazz group Le Tigre and Ethiopian singer Etenesh Wassie results in music that is visceral, infectious, and culminates with some of the most progressive world music in recent memory.
"The group is named after the sycamore lace bug (Corythucha ciliata), the nasty little tree-killing insect that was imported to Europe by accident from North America in the early 1970s. In the spirit of its namesake, the Toulouse quartet is all about crossing borders, import, export, invasion, retreat..."
And that's a fitting description of what's in store; an authentic multi-colored quilt with the sounds of Ethiopia and other locales, free jazz, hard pounding rock, all spiced and enticed by the voice and lyrics of Wassie's earthy ethnic tongue.
A guttural incantation of growling baritone sax and evocative Ethiopian dialect commences the recording with "Medinanna Zelessegna" yet the mood quickly shifts into the jumping "Muziqawi Silt" where the two-horn affront of Marc Demereau's sax and Piero Pepin's trumpet is ignited by the pulsating heartbeat of bassist Mathieu Sourisseau and drummer Fabien Duscombs.
A truly eclectic mix of sounds is experienced: the koto-like banjo on "Ambassel Fantay," the feverish ancestral dance on "Tche Belew" (one of many highlights), where Sourisseau's bass is strummed like a chorded guitar (or vice versa) and the horns interact in agreement and discordtotally and hypnotic.
These excellent musicians play with abandon that at times has the intensity of a Nirvana performance of "Smells Like Teen like Spirit." Distorted strings and cyclonic horns carry "Yezemed Yebaed" and a throbbing drum and bass on "Ney-Ney Weleba" as Demereau's baritone and voice both scream. Oliver Cussac's toy-like organ intonations color the tempered "Awash" a piece where the group finds respite.
Wassie's haunting voice (which has also been heard in Buda's Ethiopiques series) adds mystery and non-translated meaning on tunes such as "Man Yehon Telleq Sew" where her interaction with the music is perfect. With gentleness and a coarse vibrato she exudes a timeless quality on "Ambassel" that is undeniable and when combined with Le Tigre, Ethiosonic is a journey like no other.
Track Listing: Medinanna Zelessegna; Muziqawi Silt; Ambassel Fantay; Tche Belew; Yezemed Yebaed; Bati; Ney-Ney Weleba; Awash; Man Yehon Telleq Sew; Esti Lenurbet; Ambassel; Tezeta; Woub Abeba.
Personnel: Etenesh Wassie: vocals; Marc Demereau: baritone sax, alto sax, screams (7); Piero Pepin: trumpet, bugle, melodica (3); Fabien Duscombs: drums, percussion; Mathieu Sourisseau: bass, guitar, banjo (3), soubassophone (8); Oliver Cussac: Hammond organ (3-8).