Afro Celts :: Seed
Seed, the fourth album from Afro Celt (sound system), signals a drastic move away from electronica and even a lighter dose of the Celtic influences of the group's past work on tracks such as "Colossus" and "Shadowman." Absent are many of the synth arpeggiators and preprogrammed drum machines. In a conscious effort to develop a more live-organic aesthetic to their music, this album is acoustic at its core. Gaining confidence in their own musicianship after working with several accomplished artists including Peter Gabriel, the band has taken the leap from the forgiving bells and whistles of the electronic studio to the live stage for all to see. As a result, it seems two major things have happened:
- The music seems less "loop" and phrase based than on previous albums.
- The music has moved further from both African and Celtic influences, to a sound that oozes Western Rock.
"Cyberia" is by far the best example of the band's new vision on the album, a shining example of combining where they've been and where they are going with their music. Beginning with a haunting and strongly vocoded vocal, the track moves into a clean and well arranged Afro-Celtic-Pop-Ambient mosaic of sound. The title track "Seed" replaces the green Celtic Highlands with a sun-drenched Australian Outback. Gritty acoustic guitar chords and pipes shift to in-your-face strings and flutes that break through the wall with something to say.
"Nevermore" opens with a Bhangra-like synth line that shocks your system from the Outback and drops you into the nearest Euro-disco. Sub-par in a musical sense, this track could make a notable contribution to the winter-driving genre of music (as opposed to summer-driving...). In this same category is "The Otherside," with some interesting percussive arrangements to make it a decent background piece, but not musically engaging enough to warrant many listens. Deeply rooted in Celtic folk and African melody is "Ayub's Song." This piece makes you feel good to be alive. The vocals are warm and there are some well arranged acoustic sections that showcase the live/organic sound that the band has worked so hard to attain.
Toying with deep house, industrial and western rock all at once is "Deep Channel," reminding us of the electro-Celtic sound from previous efforts. Other highlights are "Rise" and "Rise Above It," which are essentially one piece spanning two tracks. Ambient pads and a hammered-dulcimer bring a very ethnic vibe until a sudden transformation into a U2-esque rock track. Continuing the organic rock theme is "All Remains," another live-sounding acoustic tune in chord progression and arrangement. If it didn't say so on the CD, I would never believe that the Afro Celt's were behind this track.
Being an extreme sucker for good production, I must say that the band and the studio have done a wonderful job in presenting the sound. Having the luxury of listening to the music in my own studio, I appreciated every well panned tabla hit and every perfectly placed guitar chord. Overall, this is a good album that gives many hints to where these people are headed. More rock driven than I had expected, Seed is a commendable move away from electronic music into the world of live noise-making. And with a few hits that make me want to throw on a kilt and grow an afro, this CD is a good addition to any collection.