by Fred Roberts
My favorite acquisitions of the last months are quite divergent in respect to one another. There’s music from the country of Sudan (Abu Obaida Hassan). The US duo Bebe & Serge who were quite well-received in Europe some years ago. An avant garde release by the German artist known as Ufo Hawaii. And last, because he’s impossible to follow, is Daddy Luthor and the Warrior Poets, a band from my hometown Cincinnati, Ohio. Here’s hoping you have as much enjoyment with these as I did. Have a wonderful summer!
Abu Obaida Hassan & His Tambour: The Shaigiya Sound of Sudan (2018) Ostinato Records
This new release by Ostinato records features the tambour music of Abu Obaida Hassan, eight recordings made during the 70s and 80s. Abu Obaida was not known in the West, indeed his fame in Sudan had been moderate. Sudanese newspapers at one point reported (incorrectly) his passing. The amazing story of how label owner Vik Sohonie tracked him down after a five-year search is just one of the miracles of the album, a story described in the liner notes. The music presented here is a treasure of Sudanese culture, feeling modern and also incredibly ancient at the same time, due to a lack of recognizable influences. The style could be a distant ancestor of the call and response form of song that later developed into the blues. The tambour, drums and other percussion form the baseline for each of the compositions, overlaid with the call of Abu Obaida’s rich voice along with the responding chorus effortlessly spinning into variations of the calling motif. Fascinating, mesmerizing, captivating. One imagines evenings on the Sahara desert decorated with these songs in festivities that rendezvous with the first light of the next day, and no awareness that so much time had passed.
Bebe & Serge – Spaced Out Supernovasuperstar (2000) Bloat Records / Little Records
Some records you find might be evidence of time travelers from another era. Spaced Out Supernovasuperstar by the duo Bebe & Serge is such a case. The release year on the album (2000) might just as well be an intentional typo for 3000, while the album’s opening is liable to confuse stereo enthusiasts to desperation as they attempt to adjust their sound system, a subtle take on the Outer Limits opening, “there is nothing wrong with your television set.” These time travelers have a sense of humor and are out for a zany joyride in our time with references to yet-to-come fads like “let’s play donkey”, “surfing in space” and “turbo loving.” The mind-spinning voice overs and voice unders, interwoven with impossible musical effects snatch the listener into a whirlwind of supersonic, electronic fun. The star of the record, Bebe McPhereson, is probably the result of an out of control cloning experiment involving the genes of Spike Jones, Judy Canova and Frank Zappa. My favorite track of the album is Not Far From Home, a cross between the Swiss Alps and Vaudeville on Mars. The interpretations of Bottle of Wine (The Fireballs) and Daughter of Darkness (Tom Jones) are points of reference showing how far out in uncharted space the duo are. I felt like bingeing the Jetsons after listening to the record. Bebe is still around in our time where she’s attended so many Gary Wilson concerts that she qualifies as a stalker. Her current projects, The Department of Descriptive Services, as well as spoken art may be explored at http://thedepartmentofdescriptiveservices.com. Additionally, there are rumors of a collaboration with the man who rocks the most.
Ufo Hawaii – Tele-Krümmer (2018) Psychofon Records
The artist Ufo Hawaii is also known under the pseudonyms Achim Dauerfisch, Achim Treu, Doc Troid, and Künstler Treu. Additionally, he is a member of the legendary Neue Deutsche Welle band Der Plan. Despite the artist’s many names the music of Tele-Krümmer presents a single clear identity, an avant garde mastermind weaving tight compositions into a collection of cohesive vignettes.The opening piece and title track recalls Czech composers of the 1930s like Pavel Haas, and that their work might sound similar if transplanted to modern day instrumentation. The composition Gabel (Eng: Fork) evokes the feeling of a submarine drifting at the bottom of the ocean. Schlauchleitungen (Eng: hose line) undermines the flow of time, weaving its moods at a glacial pace. There are mantras of “land” and “wasser” interwoven with the music, expanding the meaning of the words into the immeasurable. The grand finale of the record Heizung (Eng: Heater) is like a meteor smashing into the imagination. The intricate detail of the arrangements throughout Tele-Krümmer engage and captivate the listener. It is never too much, but one also feels the compositions would work well in a large scale symphony orchestration. This is a record to take with you to a desert asteroid, and listen as you watch the Universe spin by.
Daddy Luthor and the Warrior Poets – Songs About Prostitutes (2012)
Despite having one of the best band names ever, the Cincinnati combo Daddy Luthor and the Warrior Poets have next to no chance of airplay in American radio. Who is going to touch a song called Skinheads R Faggots, Rapist or the Fugs-ish interpretation of Good Pussy? And what do you do with something like Song For Samantha: “Girl go out and get fucked tonight / 23 and I’m 45” Zero points for political correctness. 100 points for honesty. Not to mention the creepiest singing voice this side of a psychotic meltdown. There’s a Violent Femmes-like tension to songs like Song for Bekka, and if Johnny Dowd sounds like a truck driver serial killer, Daddy Luthor is a psychopath with a chainsaw. Sick Freak is a perfect anthem for the band “ain’t no name for the sick freak that I am.” It’s probably beyond words. The songs on this album are so brutally honest, one can’t help but forgive Daddy Luthor all his deranged insanity, and as the band description points out, you may even come to love him for it.
About the author:
Fred Roberts is a native of Cincinnati living in Germany since 1987 who enjoys subverting the arbitrary commercial process in which great works often go unrecognized. He has a dual B.S. in Computer Science and Psychology from Northern Kentucky University (1984) and a Masters in Psychology from Bielefeld Universität (1999). He contributed short stories to the early ezine “D A D A RIVISTA CULTURALE E/O TELEMATICA” (1995/96), and later to the short-lived Greenbeard Magazine, in 1997 receiving a Google Blog of Note citation for his Weblog indeterminacy.blogspot.com where he wrote 428 “one-minute short stories” inspired by found photos. Fred is also creator and designer of Elbot.com, an award-winning AI system. His interests include literature, film, photography and discovering all the well-kept secrets Europe (and the music world) have to offer.