Music Reviews
Burnt Friedman

Burnt Friedman


Nonplace Records

Germans. You can never figure them out. Oom-pah-pah bands, sappy love songs, droning electronics and ear melting metal; they’ve mastered them all and now head off to darkest Africa. This eclectic disc start out like a typical West African world beat album, all finger piano and poly-rhythmic drumming, but as the heat rises and the tsetse fly starts biting, you feel something isn’t quite right. Yeah, there’s a taste of sitar left by Indian traders a millennia ago and the banging of a Revere Ware cooking pot with a Coke bottle dropped from an airplane, but there’s electricity in the background and a poorly camouflaged hi-hat gives it away. Wait… a… minute. Was that a grandfather clock? A black and white TV drone? A Theremin? No – it’s a MUSICAL SAW!

Listening to this peppy but hard to fathom collection is like watching an old Hollywood movie – just as the natives were played by extras in blackface and decked out in thrift store fashions, here the rhythms of the Third World mix with what sounds like an attempt to consciously fake, or at least parody, them. Listen a while and you’re confused but then it hits you: “I should hate this for low authenticity, but I like it because it’s as if Arthur Lyman and Esquivel met in Gabon at a swank night club and decided to jam till dawn while swilling durian daiquiris.” As we press deeper and deeper into Friedman’s native underbrush, the sounds of Africa transition back to what we know better in the digital West: microtonal rhythms and a voiceless science fiction vocal. While this is off the beaten path, there are no blow darts poisoned with colorful frogs, but you’ll still have to pay attention to read this jungle telegraph.

Burnt Friedman:

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