18 October 2010

Monday's mp3: Mardi Gras.bb Worldwide

Mardi Gras.bb have unexpectedly come up with a strong contender for the SoundRoots "best of 2010" list. And I admit I'm late coming to the party. The album was released in April, but I gave it scant attention at the time, expecting more of the great -- but not very global sounding -- swampy New Orleans blues that populated their previous releases over the past decade. 

When I finally got around to it, this album caught me by surprise. It begins with the Indian-influenced "Dehli Morning Raga," swings into "I'm Still in Love with Montreal," gets a bit French on "BLVD. De Clichy," turns to near-fetishist Orientalism on ""Monk Punk," and finally there's the puzzling musical masala of "Benim Ismin Mahmut Altunay" -- Muslim? Serbian? Persian?

The music apparently is inspired by German seventeenth century explorer Alexander von Humboldt, whoever he was. And whatever it is, or where it comes from, the music has attitude, a global reach, and an uncertain heritage that makes one wonder how it sprung from a German swamp-blues band. The group's official press info isn't much help, being either too clever by half or questionably translated or, perhaps, both.
Von Humboldt Picnic, the last album of Mardi Gras.bb, stumbles up and down the time stream (filled with mischief and lots of good friends), between lottery and life, between botanist s container and bomb terror, between container dream and beloved venality. On and on and on...Mardi Gras.bb discovered the Transhimalaya, the springs of the rivers Brahmaputra, Indus, Sutlej and the lake Lop Nor, as well as the remains of towns, tombs and forgotten towers in the deserts.
The band's offering from my part of the world (or somewhere nearby, as imagined in the mind of bandleader Doc Wenz) is this:

[mp3] Mardi Gras.bb: Americanos
from the album Von Humboldt Picnic

This is an album for which understanding gives place to enjoyment. Von Humboldt Picnic has rekindled my affection for this oddly located band, and it has been a fairly constant feature on my stereo. Play it loud, enjoy its cultural irreverence, and throw away the map, 'cause it won't help on this journey.



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