The term "cultural imperialism" is often used, justly, when Western musicians appropriate aspects of third world music for their own, watering it down to listener-friendly levels and giving scant acknowledgement to its original creators. Whereas this sort of approach has been the unfortunate rule, from Paul Simon to David Byrne, every once in a while a glorious exception emerges. Such an exception is Swedish percussionist Bengt Berger's Bitter Funeral Beer band. Berger, who devoted lengthy periods of study to West African music, particularly that of Ghana, assembled a large contingent of fellow Swedes, trained them in various aspects of West African traditions and, most importantly, chose Ghanaian folk themes with utterly beautiful and irresistible melodic lines from which to improvise.
EMI's two-disc collection Souvenir: 1989-1998 rather nicely chronicles the decade when the Rankin Family rose to prominence in the Canadian pop/folk scene and opened a floodgate of likeminded musicians who brought Celtic influences into the contemporary scene. The collection is evenly focused on their entire career, with a bit of emphasis on the albums North Country and Uprooted, but also properly serves as an end cap to an impressive career (the Rankins disbanded in 1999) and as a memorial to the late John Morris Rankin (1959-2000). It is the perfect place to start for the curious and a fine set for those looking for a comprehensive retrospective.
Shadoks Music has rescued yet another obscure recording for our enjoyment - Souvenir Album by Strange. The disc features eight songs proper and four segments of other tunes recorded from 1974 to 1978, and more than anything highlights the songwriting abilities of David Chamberlain, the band’s multi-instrumentalist and singer.
Even in their hometown of Olympia, Washington, Strange was far from a household name, and never really broke beyond playing local venues. By 1978, as Chamberlain was putting the material together for an actual album, Strange had disbanded…
Sinister Creed is Funeral Winds fourth album in twentyseven years. Despite not being a very prolific act, Hellchrist Xul’s creature is one of the first black metal bands ever to come out of the Netherlands underground. Even if released via Avantgarde Music, expect no avantgarde music here: Sinister Creed is pure rage coming from the early Nineties, a way to channel evil with ice-cold riffs, neverending up-tempos and ravaging shrieks. Simple as that. Funeral Winds are devoted to master the black arts, not some hip fine tune, therefore there is only one thing you can expect from the Dutch duo: total devastation. For all those who miss the way things used to be almost thirty years ago, Sinister Creed is a beacon in the dark, or better, a pit of darkness in this ever-lit world.