Karl Hector & The Malcouns, Sahara Swing

Hua Hsu

By Hua Hsu

on 04.22.11 in Reviews

Retro is not exactly the most efficient of fuel sources. Some decade after the welcome late '90s deep funk revival, the mere novelty of hearing young folks twittering with old sounds no longer satisfies — which is precisely why Sahara Swing, a Fela Kuti-meets-Can bit of fan fiction — is such a delightful and well-timed record. The band, consisting of members of Poets of Rhythm and other German session musicians fluent in the language of amateur funk, imagines a raw hybrid take on Fela's sprawling brass constructions and fiery, showy 1970s nation-first soul jazz, all pinned down by a poly-rhythm section that's half-Ethiopiques, half-"Vitamin C."

Fela Kuti, meet Can

The thrilling "Nyx" starts off as a seemingly generic funk scamper, until tiny plinks of thumb piano and watery horns beckon it elsewhere. "Mellow (Version)" splits the difference between American funk and Mulatu Astatke, while the rousing, fanfare-driven "Koloko Pt. 1" and the melancholy, meandering "Debere" are versatile bits of modern-day Afro Funk. Despite each extended jam's aspirations toward trance-y epiphany, a series of short, minute-long interludes keep Sahara Swing spry and lively. They tinker with some of their more far-out ideas in the various "Transition" pieces, as kalimbas, shekeres, sputtering drum-rolls and random hoots provide the raw materials for tomorrow's revivals.