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Masala Sound System
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Strange animals from Poland do cast quiet shadows on the slumbering winter music scene here in the US. This European import finds itself in quite the Williams-Sonoma cornucopia pickle jar. With influences ranging from drum n bass to bhangra to dance hall to spoken word, Masala Sound System is sure to pique your interest if anything. But methinks the casual listener will find more to this 19 track debut packaged in familiar Swad spice packet branding.

Field-recordings from Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan, along with other live instrumentation and vocals, lend a studio-band-like quality to MSS. But funnily enough one will find some tracks overrun with samples. Luckily the samples are well-used, so the detraction is not long lasting, but the compositions serving up original recordings are much more tastier. Examples that shine are "As One," "Cyber Punjabi" and "Tuwa-Miedzylesie-Turcja."

If MSS can be likened to a 3 course dinner at Punjabi 5-Star, then "As One" is the pot brownie you rock before the generous helping of khadi. Ganga-inspired vocals in wikkid dance hall harmonies swirl about, rapping, "Nation, religion are only words, tell me why in their names do we die? Whether you are Muslim or Christian or Buddhist or Protestant, That's one thing you should always remember: I am yours and you are mine..." Political overtones are a key ingredient here: Polish State Radio journalist and co-author of a war in Iraq book Noise of Azrael Wings Jacek Kaczmarek and team leader/author Max Cegielski add their flavour throughout.

"Cyber Punjabi" features duelling Frenchman and Punjabi vocals over an albeit sampled, yet-highly-effective dance hall rhythm. The only crit here would be that the Frenchman raps get pushed a bit too far..."Tuwa-Miedzylesie-Turcja" is a funky club joint laced with hypnotic Tuvan throat chanting. Other tracks to taste are "XI Wiek (Dezerter)," a metal-clad DnB number with punk girl vocals. "Postepuj Droga Prosta" takes us on a nice rail journey through a dream caught between Poland's big cites and the Pakistani countryside.

As they put it, "MASALA becomes a settlement above borders, generations and divisions, a settlement so highly desired in the time of conflict..." The musicianship and inspiration of Masala Sound System is self evident in thier music and we look forward to more offerings in the near future.



ethnotechno rating: 3.5 out of 5
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  1. Intro/Skit: Mithu Sain (Lahore)
  2. CYBER PUNJABI (pick)
  3. HOLLYWOOD-BOLLYWOOD-LOLLYWOOD (Intro cinema)
  4. BOMBAJ-ISLAMABAD-WARSZAWA (Crazy Sound System vs Like Orient)
  5. TUWA-MIEDZYLESIE-TURCJA (pick)
  6. AS ONE (pick)
  7. MARLENE BIKUM HAMED (Yass Khodor vs. Like Orient)
  8. RUMI SKIT
  9. RADIO TEHERAN
  10. OD TARNOBRZEGU PO BANGLADESZ
  11. RANGIJA
  12. EX ORIENTE LUX
  13. XXI WIEK (Dezerter) (pick)
  14. PENDZAB-BULGARIA-POLSKA
  15. FARIAD/ SKIT
  16. POSTEPUJ DROGA PROSTA (Like Orient Sound System) (pick)
  17. RAANJAN
  18. SKIT OUTRO RUMI
  19. GOODBYE