Vaudou Game – Apiafo Bleg Excerpt
Here’s an interesting exercise in atavism. A contemporary shot at a distinctly ancient style using purely analog recording equipment to re-enact/enkindle the original sound & energy-currents. There are some really astonishing 60’s/70’s African reissue compilations (particularly the West African stuff) doing the rounds, most notably for me the superb Analog Africa series levelling some profound gyration & beautiful distorted obscurer from multiple decades back. Vaudou Game perform the raw Funk influenced sound from the Benin, Togo, Ghana districts commingled with Afro-Beat & some Rock styled residue. The band leader/founder is Peter Solo who was born in Togo & apparently immersed in Voodoo culture, another theme that permeates this album & even ostensibly is used to generate the compositional process. At some stage, Solo moved to Lyon, France & has since assembled a convene of local musicians to perform his African-styled creations (he is the only African member of the group). Solo writes all the music, performs lead guitars & is the central vocalist, his crew play various brass/reeds & are of course accompanied by electric-bass & full drums as well as participating in backing/response vocals in the Mina language. so how does this shit square-up to the incredible lineage of vintage grooves & skin-sheering Afro-Funk from the late 60’s & 70’s? Well it’s a considerable effort with some excellent segments, but I have problems with the cleanliness & a slightly anaemic dis-quality & sheen that’s apparent on Apiafo. The shuddering muscular dalliance of the old African shit is not really here, some very fine material is, but it’s composure & lack of edge & most specifically rawness, which is only really offered from Solo himself & his excellent guitar extroversion, fails to stimulate & impel the kind of energy-flux I associate with the best of this incredible music form. His band are competent & super-tight, but I find them too controlled & brandishing a kind of improvisational inhibition. So much of the raw African stuff threatens to derail under it’s own buoyancy, but this is largely straight-down-the-line without the irresistible spontaneity, panache & veering of the vintage era. No distortion (aside some very cool FX-pedals on Solo’s guitar soloing) is harnessed either which is a pity (come on, the old distorted African stuff is invincible). A lot of the trax are also quite straight forward Funk forays, the best tunes to me are the more polyrhythmic or voodoo-enhanced numbers such as “Think Positive” (played in a rotating six) which I really enjoyed. I am very impressed with Solo’s performance, but either his crew are intrinsically too subdued or he has curtailed them from overly-expressing their parts & maintaining more of a supporting roll to his overt dalliance. Overall, I think that this stuff is too staid & that all angles of rawness need to escalate significantly. Still, despite all criticism, this is a dope debut & this is definitely a cat I will be watching eagerly. If Solo should decide to push the boat & expand the raucous, rowdy elements whilst amplifying the rawness, I have no doubt we would be subjected to some thrilling precipitant high-energy voodoo shit. The fact that somebody is actually attempting to reinvent/revify such marvellous musical terrain is tremendously exciting & Vaudou Game are definitely one to watch.
Label: Hot Casa Records