Steve Reid, some dude. A brief history may read thus; “Chucked in jail for draft dodging the ‘Nam, forty years or so of playing with (amongst others) Fela Kuti, Guy Warren, Miles Davies and Sun Ra”.
Steve Reid Ensemble – Daxaar
Steve Reid, some dude. A brief history may read thus; "Chucked in jail for draft dodging the 'Nam, forty years or so of playing with (amongst others) Fela Kuti, Guy Warren, Miles Davies and Sun Ra". Recent collaborations have seen him make brilliant if somewhat far-out records with Four Tet's Kieron Hebden. And now another release, Daxaar, with Hebden again at the controls and fleshed out by local Dakar lads Dembel Diop, Isa Kouyate, Jimi Mbaye and Khadim Badjia. This is an LP which - let me tell you in no uncertain terms - is a bloody riot.
It's not a "lets go to Africa to authenticate my soul" LP either, one of the feelings sadly inherent in Damon Albarn's "African" LP a while back – a feeling which made that whole episode so bloody indigestible for me. Reid's been around too long for any statements, we're talking about a mate of the Late Great Fela Kuti here. No, this is music to enjoy and marvel at. After the beautiful Korah-led opener, Welcome, we are kicked straight into an eight minute stew known as Daxaar. It's a repeated organ loop augmented by feathery percussion and a dolorous trumpet lead, that's got something of the Miles Davieses about it. Or it's the Church of Anthrax with a deadly groove. Whatever, it's waspish and infectious. There's no let up as following that is Jiggy Jiggy, a perverted jazz-blues stroll meeting Kraftwerk (yes the flute-style noises remind me of Schneider's electric flute off Ruckzuck) in a downtown bar. It's an essentially urban groove with playful guitar runs and nagging, insistent piano tones. Once the trumpet kicks in there's no way back, such is the spellbinding nature of the track.
Dabronxxar is more muted, yet again a piano tone informs us whilst King Tubby-style bubblings and wibblings create a certain atmosphere. This is a minor key wig out, never in your face but disturbing nonetheless; rather like the strange bloke in the bus stop getting his stamp collection out... Half way in there's an increase in tempo, though not by a considerable amount. The Tubby/Cluster noises start to get a tad more menacing, as if someone's finally and mistakenly paid them attention they've been craving. Oh well... Big G's Family begins as a disparate though subdued collection of rattling and bumps. It sounds like a Rook has got into the studio at one point too. Soon we're under way with a slow organ ascent (Sic – ed) and suddenly we're hanging out with the Van der Graaf Generator or Steve Hillage. It's actually quite fabulous, especially the lo-fi organ soloing.
All good things must pass, but Daxaar is determined to pass on a high. Don't Look Back is a brilliant and astute summation of what's gone before, an excitable keyboard coda reminiscent of a Monks track vies for attention with a dreamy guitar and hyperactive percussion. Things get more manic and more joyous, this is real dance music, no mistake, intuitive, playful and always bouncing back when you least expect it to.
A fabulous, fabulous release. In my top ten list of the year, without a doubt.
Words: Richard Foster