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Giovanni Venosta, Ikebe Shakedown

Giovanni Venosta Olympic Signals (Soave)

Ikebe Shakedown The Way Home (Colemine)


ing a looped, incomprehensible vocal sample and Venosta adding his glistening minimalist piano repetition. The other collaboration is “Classic Comes Out,” which has a playful, even gleeful counterpoint between oboe, violin and piano—Penguin Cafe Orchestra comes to mind—plus wispy synths that add texture. This vibe continues in “Minimal Symphony” but with a more formal classical flavor. Although much of the album resides firmly in the piano minimalism category, including the entire second half, each piece has its own character, such as “Tango But,” which feels like it could serve as a stripped-down horror soundtrack, evoking Goblin or John Carpenter. The album concludes with its longest tracks, “Piano Piece No. 2” and “Piano Piece No. 3,” which lock into progressions and patterns yet sound human rather than robotic, with tiny imperfections, adding to and not subtracting from the album’s elegant and experimenting charm.

ubtitled “Improbable music for people who aren’t very disposed,” Italian film composer and keyboardist Giovanni Venosta’s debut album Olympic Signals marked the beginning of a brilliant recording career and also the start of a noteworthy collaboration with fellow Italian composer and world-traveling field-recorder, Roberto Musci. Venosta and Musci took early inspiration from diverse sources that would prove to be profound in their careers: French musique concrète (using recording technology as a vital compositional tool), American minimalists like Steve Reich and Terry Riley, the piano patterns of South African jazz musician Abdullah Ibrahim (a.k.a. Dollar Brand), Can co-founder Holger Czukay’s non-Can work, and David Byrne and Brian Eno’s astounding collaboration My Life in the Bush of Ghosts, created around various field recordings. Recorded in 1984, when Venosta was just 23 years old, and released in 1985 on Music’s Raw Materials label, Olympic Signals had been an out-of-print obscurity for over three decades until this new vinyl and digital reissue from Soave Records. Two tracks feature contributions from Musci, including the gorgeous and hypnotic “Woman in Late,” with Musci us-



opular music can be considered a never-ending, long-term version of the “telephone” game, where a whispered phrase is gradually altered due to multiple exchanges, retaining some

of the meaning and while inevitably adding embellishments. A particularly convoluted game comes to mind when listening to the new album The Way Home from the Brooklyn 7-piece group Ikebe Shakedown, apparently named after a Nigerian boogie record. Rock and soul music had origins in blues and gospel music, which developed from African sources. Crossing oceans again, rock, funk and jazz influenced key African musicians such as Fela Kuti and helped to shape Afrobeat and other genres, and new generations have adopted those flavors on this side of the pond. Formed close to a decade ago, Ikebe Shakedown plays an amalgam of instrumental soul-funk with African influences, and if this sounds to you like a description of the Daptone Records group The Budos Band, well, you wouldn’t be off the mark. However, that’s a high compliment—like The Budos Band, Ikebe Shakedown are absolutely tight, with impeccable recordings, and clearly understand and respect their sources. The Way Home kicks off with “Supermoon,” which could easily serve as a ‘70s film funk soundtrack with spotless brass arrangements and an irresistible groove, enhanced by ever-present conga beats; a mid-song breakdown section could double as an Incredible Bongo Band breakbeat. It’s apparent that the band takes recording very seriously, and every instrument is clear without a place to hide; there’s great pleasure in savoring the details—anything from a satisfying Vibraslap rattle, a Harmon-muted trumpet melody or a very specific snaredrum timbre. Of note are the brazen and nuanced trombone solos that pepper the album, like on the track “The Next 24,” and tasteful wah-wah electric guitar licks, blanketed in vintage amp reverb, add a psychedelic funk touch. If The Way Home was an obscure library funk record from 1973, crate-diggers would be drooling all over it.

The Pulse 14.45 » November 9, 2017  
The Pulse 14.45 » November 9, 2017  

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