Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra

Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra

Glitterbeat Records, 2016

http://afro-haitianexperimentalorchestra.bandcamp.com

REVIEW BY: Tom Haugen

ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED: 03/26/2017

Sometimes, a name can tell you pretty much everything you need to know. Afro-Haitian Experimental Orchestra is a project initiated by Corinne Micaelli, most well known as a prominent figure of the French Institute of Haiti. This vision quickly crossed the ocean when she recruited Afrobeat legend Tony Allen, a.k.a. drummer for Fela Kuti. Erol Josue was then brought in, who also pulled in local talent in the form of singers and percussion, many of whom are members of bands like Lakou Mizik, RAM, Racine Mapou de Azor, and the Yizra'El Band.nbtc__dv_250

The eight songs here were conceived and fleshed out after under a week of practice, in multiple sessions of controlled chaos where more than a dozen musicians brought their respective talents and ideas to the table. The end results are sounds that encapsulate influences from both sides of The Atlantic, with polyrhythms, consistent grooves, and enough melody to fill a sea.

As you might expect with so much skill on hand, this is a very diverse listen, though album opener “Salilento” does a good job of summing up the affair. With subtle electronica and a soothing vibe, there's plenty of emphasis on bass, and multiple vocals that often sounds like a street party of different cultures converging. Other upbeat selections like “Yanvalou” show krautrock and Sun Ra influences, while “Poze” incorporates chanting and bluesy guitar riffs.

The celebratory atmosphere is often present, especially on songs like “Bade Zile”, which offers nods to Fela Kuti with noise and synth sounds, though there are also softer moments such as the ballad “Mon Ami Tezin” which could soundtrack a wake. The best moments, however, include the changing vocal work most evident in the traditional folklore “Wongolo” with Sanba Zao and “Chay La Lou,” which has a spiritual slant and features Mar-Harold Pierre's pipes.

Unfortunately, recording the live version of these songs didn't pan out, so these recordings were culled from rehearsals, with overdubs inserted after. With so many cooks in the kitchen, this had the potential to be a fumbling mess, but each artist's respective contributions are present and accounted for, leaving us with an authentic fusion of energy, vitality and cultural significance.

Rating: B

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