Urban Tribe, Urban Tribe


Illustration by Dan Bergeron

[Mahogani Music]


Buy Vinyl

The Urban Tribe project is a revolving door, so it’s understandable that it doesn’t have a recognizable sound outside of its electro-influenced jerkiness, ostensibly the product of having Sherard Ingram (aka DJ Stingray) at the center of it all. The project’s latest release is an LP on Moodymann’s Mahogani label and features quite an impressive lineup: Stingray, Moodymann, Carl Craig, and Shake. Usually this type of all-star cast leads to too many cooks in the kitchen, but Urban Tribe is low on pretense and grandiose gestures: it’s more like a quaint document than a magnum opus, the techno equivalent of a living-room jam recorded on someone’s cheap tape deck. But in its laidback quality lies its genius, ascending to the heights of mastery almost casually.

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There’s an odd, almost wooden ricketiness to the tracks, and the LP is presented with a bit of intriguing mystery, from its untitled tracklist to its implacable sounds and weird vocal samples: samples that don’t sound as much exotic as they do alien. For an album produced by so many people, it’s disarmingly spare. The elements are given plenty of room to breathe, or would be were the air not saturated with old and desiccated dust. What’s even more disarming is how dense the tracks seem as they unfold themselves inside your head, taking up far more space in their mental existence than their physical. The second track features a thin bass riff, shrill squalls, and a moaning vocal, but as presented on the LP it feels like some mammoth vehicle of inhuman funk, especially as a simple drum sound is introduced over top of vocodered vocals. The fourth track is simply a minute of hushed dripping sounds and swelling low-end dread, but it’s a multi-layered epic of cinematic drama.

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The music can’t help but recall Drexciya in not only the sound at the surface, but in the same indefinable way that the legendary Detroit duo buried so much depth and complexity into their pseudo-simplistic productions. Their omnipresent aquatic obsession rears its head in the undersea disco of the fifth track, which shares in Drexciya’s flimsy rubber as well as the overt hydro-obsession, but it’s not as if they’re just biting at Drexciya’s coattails. Instead, Urban Tribe taps into that fabled well of pain and emotion and ends up with something just as complex and confusing, an LP that can make you cry as much as it’ll make you dance, and you won’t have a clue why. It’s a relief that the album is only 28 minutes long, because any longer and it might have been a sprawling mess. If nothing else Urban Tribe give value for your time and money, packing more into half an hour than many artists pack into entire careers. And let’s not forget that this is only a living-room jam. Sometimes things just end up exactly like they should, and sometimes, even better than that.

tom/pipecock  on August 5, 2010 at 2:56 PM

yep, loving this LP. the “casual genius” comment is spot on, they definitely don’t sound like they’re trying too hard to be something grandiose!

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