oots of underground dance music have grown all over the globe but are rarely witnessed or heared outside the typical classifications between schools, sub or meta genres, leading to the actual misconception of a music drown in a single misused word “electro”. Fortunately talented deejays like Dj Zhao pursue a tradition belonging to the early roots of this music by releasing his mixes to the world and remixing it by giving to hear the best of all five continents. After having released two other volumes, NGOMA 1 & NGOMA 2, here goes NGOMA 3.
“Fusion” is certainly an appropriate word while listening and by reading the the short description riding along the title: Zulu house / Afro Electro / UK Funky / Kizomba / Yoik / Funk Carioca / Dub Techno. Beyond a possible sketch of a concept covering a whole continent, giving the impression to try to put some glue between disparate elements, choice has been carefully made and the mix just flows progressively down your hears revealing new moods, sensations, sounds and horizons. A mix that performs perfectly, by being the sum of all it’s parts and revealing new shapes, such as the cover suggests (Dj Zhao being also a designer) whether you need to chill or move your feets.dj zhao - Ngoma 3 * dj zhao - Ngoma 3. Album cover Dj Zhao * Dj Zhao
Fusion is certainly an important word here to celebrate and illustrate how music can break boundaries, where in other domains this fusion fails slowly and silently. Early underground dance music producers in the U.S. in Chicago for example, the founders of “House Music”, had raised the same concept: music as a strong vector of fusion and unity. Strong in words but also in sounds. Spencer Kincy, aka Gemini had released at that time (1995) a heavy and dry jazzy track on Relief Records called “Le fusion”. Many years ago rumors indicated Larry Heard dropped his carrier to take a job in a bank. Same for Kenny Larkin. He had moved to Los Angeles to become an actor in tv shows after having been victim of a physical aggression in it’s home town, Detroit.
“Kenny Larkin began his musical career in 1990 after serving two years in the U.S. Air Force…” says the Discogs page. Who thought House Music was just a small leaf in the big tree should completely review his idea and listen to that new Kenny Larkin album, Keys, Strings, Tambourines.
A French writer said among other interesting things “Perfection is achieved not when there is nothing more to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.”.
Keys, Strings, Tambourines. Imagine the discussion between Kenny and his best friend: “- How are you going to call it ?…”. I can hear “- Huh ?” when the response fires. Sounds so simple, almost like a joke.
Let’s drive to the cover. A network of straight lines grouped in systems with different levels of grays and positive negative values, suggests various strong and powerful paths. Although these paths may appear massive with those narrow lines inside, evoking the surface of a vinyl, it is balanced with many areas of open space in between. More than a frontal and flat structure these group of lines call for elevation as if looking to an aerial shot of an highway interchange. The only curved shape suggests the “S” letter. It’s upper part has been cut and leads out of the frame. On it’s lower part, it ends in another brighter shape, leading the eye to a brighter and deeper network of shapes. This curved shape is so possibly the entry, the path or connection to two spaces, inner and outer space, connected both through music. Here’s a possible summary of the cover: balance, path and connected spaces.
The album opens on a powerful and sharp starting “Androgenous”, layering each instruments gradually until a few synthetic notes that leads the sound to falling-raising ambiance. The sound is very clear and warm with very few effects.
Next comes “Glob” which is, for me, the best track of the album. A masterpiece of warm beats mixed with moody and melodic combination of sounds that leads, step by step to a very atmospheric and melancholic sound, recognizable over thousands, the sound of Detroit. Detroit, home town, where Kenny Larkin flew several times back to get inspired and work in Carl Craig’s studios, Planet-e.
Among the other tracks I’ll last talk about the track called “Vibin”, an amazing trip, an intangible mixture of deep gospel, african sounds and techno music.
This album reveals itself each time you listen at it more precisely in it’s wide and simple evidence delivering a pure balance between rhythm, melody, between energy and emotion. I have been listening to all Kenny Larkin’s albums since the beginning and this one is certainly his most achieved work, a huge jump forward.
Described on the AMG page as: “Massively influential on British and German, as well as American strains of techno…” you shouldn’t miss that album.