The drum is both heartbeat and pulse... as an extension of what occurs inside of our bodies. In the major dance traditions of the world - especially those of Africa and the Middle East - percussion is the very life force of which music is built. A foundation is laid by drums for which any other instrument can be layered overtop, to weave within and without. Melody is what catches us and makes us regard it as beautiful, but rhythm is the carnal driving force that makes us move.
The word tribal denotes rhythm, as ceremony is a bonding ritual, and drums bond communities as well as individuals. While electronic music has long been inspired by, and integrated percussion patterns into it's sonically demanding soundscape, early genres such as disco, techno and house borrowed Latin and African loops and built into them catchy, gospel-esque vocal hooks or, if we are discussing more electro-heavy beats: bass-heavy beats loaded with synths and computerized effects. Over time crafty producers found a synthesis between organic drums and digitally enhanced beats. Today it is sometimes difficult to tell the difference, and that's exactly the point. A rhythm is a rhythm is a...
And it all depends on production.
For their latest compilation, Tribal Matrix, Dakini Records licensed a host of excellent producers for this drum-oriented journey through a plethora of Oriental (term used broadly) sounds. Musical connections link Asia, India, North Africa and the Arabic world in the scope of drums used and harmonic instruments employed. The commonality is a range of electronic production styles making intense tapestries of one of humanity's first, and arguably most primitive, vehicles.
Credit Makyo for an excellent job on two accounts: first, on the song selections, and second, the order upon which he created it. Although
featuring a dozen tracks by ten artists (three being Makyo's own), there is continuity rare by most selectors. In truth all of Dakini's comps have utilized like-minded DJs and mixmasters, so it's not surprising. The uniformity of the label only adds to the overall effect.
Makyo opens with one of his own "Swords," a downtempo, sit back and prepare mix with a sharply punctuated kick. The hype man for this comp turns out to be Canadian resident Adham Shaikh, whose latest album, Collectivity - which this song, "Beyond I," is pulled from - is an amazing collection of global-minded instrumentation created by an ear and mind that few producers today can touch. This Arabia-leaning cut is the perfect preparation for where Makyo then explores.
The album becomes most interesting when moving toward the sporadic and hyper rhythms of drums like the dumbek. Freeman's "Obelisk" admits a great interplay between frontal attack and underlying foundation. Same for the West Coast-based Lumin, using a more drum On bass approach for their tablas and stringed instruments. Makyo comes in halfway with his Sufi/Rasta connection, "Whirling Dub," for a sudden break; relaxation is his specialty, for his genius rests in creating rich, full sounds with long pauses. His longtime connection to Zen philosophy arises consistently in all his efforts.
The album gets more interesting as it moves forward, again unlike most comps, which often offer blatant winners upfront. Taichi Masuda's "Drum Solo" takes the heavy sounds of Kyoto into a live kit play that is, as the name denotes, as chaotic as Art Blakey laying back into a five-minute groove. Makyo's last cut, "Devanbhanda," is either a remix of a Bill Laswell track, or else he'd been playing the man's Amorphous days quite a bit. The album peaks with two longer songs, first NYC local boy Badawi going on a digital frenzy with effects, which makes for interesting sounds though not much to grab onto. The second is literally an album itself. Australian native Gus Till's "Rainsong" is a gorgeously crafted exploration that ebbs and waves into a stellar dance floor groover by the fourth minute. His ability to stretch out a rhythm and keep it interesting reminds one of Banco de Gaia's latest, relying on one underlying foundation to let loose upon. And that is a fitting summation, for it is the basis of this matrix: a world of possibility, a focus of ingenuity.