Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou "Volume One: The Vodoun Effect - Funk & Sato from Benin's Obscure Labels 1973-1975"
The kind of promo that simply cannot go wrong, the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou CD is one of those obscurity gems that puts a smile on anyone's face, let alone the guy that just got it free through the post...utterly ignorant of the roots of this music and its cultural importance, I can only wish that the promo included the 44-page booklet that accompanies the real deal, and will have to make do with some superficial observations: namely that this cd is full of awesome beats and songs so cool they could trigger the next ice-age. You only have to glance at one of the dude's hats on the back cover to know that this record is going to bleed cool. Mixing traditional ritual rhythms native to Benin's Vodoun (Voodoo) religion with the kind of basslines, horn hooks and organ licks that would make a paraplegic dance, the songs here ride and cruise with a stylish confidence and poise that garners a particularly affectionate attention - the kind generated by a community of such singular charm and magnetism that to have been a part of it must have been the dream of many a young funkaholic both in 70s Benin and beyond. Recorded beautifully on Nagra reel-to-reels, the drums and bass glow in a warm analogue hum, the electric organ bounces around the waxy, sprung rhythms and the vocals speak with a richness and clarity that often cuts through the wonderfully fuzzy haze of the guitars and bass with roaring acuity. The sharpness of the companionship between bass and guitar exhibits itself with an effortlessly relaxed glee that belies the honed musicianship it must have taken to chop cuts this tight and groovy. "Dis Moi La Verite" (tell me the truth) enters with a bass so heavy it should rightfully be played on the street through some enormous old P.A. system at a volume beyond its capability. "Mi Ni Non Kpo" (translation forthcoming) burns with such a late-night zeal you can see the smoke rings rising through the gaps in the slap-back delay. "Iya Me Dji Ki Bi Ni" has the kind of drums you hear sampled in a hip-hop track notable only for the stunning sample - you look up the original and fall in love with the unadulterated purity of the sound...and so on, 14 tracks that will undoubtedly send some heads spinning and some feet shuffling. More please - volume 2, containing solely material the band recorded for the label Albarika Store, cannot come out soon enough. 8/10 -- Evan Rhodes (22 January, 2009)