Berlin duo sample their way around the world and serve up joyous mish-mash of an LP
Dirk and his graffiti tagging pal Nomad might be a product of the club scene of the German capital, but Africaine 808 has its roots somewhere else entirely. Yes, this is ostensibly electronic music — whether that be in stalking, ominous sub-bass, classic acid-y hooks or a palette of robotic electro beats — but this is also much more than electronic music. Here you’ll also find African funk, tribal rhythmic intensity, dubby warmth, jazzy vibes, gospel and Caribbean gestures sitting alongside those electronic components without any sense of self-consciousness whatsoever.
It’s almost as if this stew of supposedly incompatible elements was always designed to be cooked up together. That being said, it’s not always as successful as that sounds, but usually only when the duo dispense with the fusion dimension that makes this album so intriguing. ‘Ready For Something New’ manages to get itself confused, starting off with a dubby groove but ending up as a languid, soulful track that doesn’t sound that new at all compared to the sound clashes on display elsewhere on ‘Basar’. Far better are cuts like the title track which manages to compress late 80s dance gestures, solid layers of tribal percussion and squiggly little ‘Artificial Intelligence’ sounds into one dense and captivating piece; ‘Rhythm Is All You Can Dance’ slows the pace down into a half-speed rave monster and adds atmospheric chants as it ascends out of a murky beatless breakdown.
These tracks feel like Dirk and Nomad are throwing everything they’ve got, every single sample from every obscure record they’ve ceaselessly crate-dug for, at any available wall and seeing what sticks. As with so many experiments, or albums built up from seemingly incompatible inputs, it shouldn’t work, but somehow two pairs of keen ears and a good sense of how rhythms and sounds can mesh together fluidly make this gumbo approach work. Don’t ask why, it just does. And speaking of gumbo, the Louisiana craziness of ‘Crawfish Got Soul’ is guaranteed to lift the spirits of the most cynical listener.
Those of us with long memories will recall the likes of Loop Guru and even some of Richard H Kirk’s solo work for Warp dabbling in what we then somewhat dubiously called ‘world music’. Where those artists looked to different cultures to add a diverse input into their electronic structures, Africaine 808 seem to be reflecting back a much more globally-connected world than those units could have imagined back then.
If Rough Guide ever served up a contemporary cultural diversity edition, this would undoubtedly be the soundtrack. Either that or we’ll chalk it up to ludicrous experimentation and forget about it until someone else decides to busily go about sampling their way around the world all over again.