Mr. Raoul K, Mystic Things

[Baobab Secret]

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We love to drag geography into discussions of dance music, and with Mr. Raoul K, it’s hard not to. Turned onto to electronic dance music after moving from the Ivory Coast to Hamburg, his reputation as a producer is founded on a growing catalog of euphoric and rather continental club tracks that swirl with traditional African elements. Granted, African motifs are hardly anomalous in dance music, but they’ve held an uncommonly prominent role in this particular producer’s discography, and not just the rhythms, either. From the balafon twinkling through last year’s excellent “Wind of Goree” for Mule Musiq to the shudders of kora heard on 2008’s “Le Cercle Peul,” Raoul’s keen interest in working with live recordings of African acoustic instruments is probably the first thing you notice when you hear his music — at least it was, anyway.

I don’t doubt that Raoul continues to pursue this interest on the title track of his new Mystic Things, but it’s not front-and-center this time. Loose, acoustic drum sounds stand out but, from the pounding to the plinking, they play more as seasoning here, character adjuncts in a minimal house aesthetic more focused on the modulation from lulling drones to restorative swells. Vocals come courtesy of a certain Lopazz, though his incitements to “dance with your body” struggle to reach the surface of the track’s repetitive commotion. Sometimes, little more than a moan can be discerned, but that hardly hurts the track’s immersive intensity. It’s not a subtle track, but “Mystic Things” direct approach does achieve a near-trance narcosis that seems to smuggle the nighttime and crowd onto the record along with the demanding rhythm. B-side “No Food No Groove,” then, is the record’s low-key potboiler. It’s on this track that you’ll hear the distinctive use of traditional African instruments that Raoul’s known for, the percolating wooden percussion (perhaps a balafon again) doled out as lovely, stripped-down melodic phrases and agitated rhythmic rushes alike. Striving for a brighter and more blissed-out energy than its partner track, its sonic sunrise might well come in handy after a night soundtracked by the A-side.

Sibonelo  on February 11, 2010 at 2:10 AM

I know what you talking about when you trying to describe that wooden percussion…..they use that frequently in some tradional music here in South Africa.


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