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CD Feature/ If, Bwana: "Rex Xhu Ping"

img  Tobias

When people were still thinking in “A” and “B” sides and the tape network was still intact, Al Margolis was the man behind Sound of Pig Music and released a staggering 300 albums by a plethora of artists over seven years. Certainly, the busy behind-the-scene activity was a logical conclusion to a world more obviously devided into mainstream and underground culture, but it was also led by the avid desire to avoid generalisations and not be caught up in repetitve schemes.This inbuilt sense of going for what felt good, not what might be expected has survived until the present day: On “Rex Xhu Ping”, Margolis teams up with his long-time friends of If, Bwana and delivers a work without borders and of immediate appeal.

These friends include “singer, teacher, hostess, tour escort, translator” and, above all, doctor in foreign languages and literature with a PhD in “Performance Studies” Laura Biagi, Dan and Detta Andreana as well as the Orchestra d’Fou, whose ranks are too numerous to be covered in their entirety here and whose instrumentation includes trombones, organs, tuning forks as well as a bikelophone, wich looks so unbelievable that you will have to look it up on google to believe me it actually exists. The interaction between this group is sharp and to the point, focussed on delivering seemless pieces which have distinct moods on their own, but combine for a varied and strongly contrasting set of music roughly divided into an intense opening, an energetic middle part and an atmospheric ending. On “Natraj” and “Frog Field”, Margolis is still on his own and the textures are dense and halucinatory, the former driven by high-pitched penetrations and the pendulum of a deep gong, the latter dreaming up a coctail of sleepwalking drones and phantasmagoric xylophone loops. A bigger band constellation meets on the album’s core of “Tattooed Love Muffins” and “Oy ve, Angie”, collages of electronic and acoustic events with a strong Jazz-taste – something which has crept into quite a bit of the music I’ve been listening to lately and which works superbly in my opinion, lending a certain edginess and urban coolness to sometimes slightly asexual sonic experiments. In the two concluding tracks, Biagi’s touch is the strongest, as she whispers eery vocals on top of haunting soundscapes, stumbling blindfolded through icecold caverns.

“Rex Xhu Ping” is not a CD for those who want to stay within the warm bath of a single ambiance or who feel uncomfortable being shook up from time to time by unexpected changes. It is, however, a remarkable album for anyone with a broad taste. For someone coming from a time when things were still clearly seperated into “A” and “B”, Margolis has definitely delivered an album of all-encompassing stylistic scope – even though his work is still as far from mainstream culture as it was back in the 80s.

By Tobias Fischer

Homepage: Pogus Records

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