Music

CD Shorts

Reviewed this week: Carolyn Walker, Nat Lyon, and Various Artists—Diablos Del Ritmo

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Tuesday, April 09, 2013

Carolyn Walker

Resolution

(independent)

Carolyn Walker’s songs express intense thoughts and emotions, but promote strength and discipline as alternatives to more manic or self-destructive forms of spiritual cleansing. There are a few electric tracks that channel a sort of Alanis Morrisette-style bitterness, but neither the stock pop chords nor the sentiment seem to come that naturally to Walker, whose strength seems to lie in a simpler place. There is a skilled songwriting mind at work here, consciously crafting complex melodies, harmonies and Eastern-flavored drones that are constantly moving or swelling, and the production is rich with strings, chimes, singing bowls and even a Chinese zither, nurtured with care by Northfire Studios’ Garrett Sawyer. The title track—last on the CD—is a Carole King-worthy gem in which Walker inhabits a space all her own that becomes a space where all of us have been. —Tom Sturm

*

Nat Lyon

New England Paradigm Shift

Northeastern Connecticut musician Nat Lyon, it’s safe to say, follows his own muse. The result, at least on New England Paradigm Shift, is a weird but fascinating mash-up of outsider awkwardness and multi-layered soundscapes replete with chiming guitars, droney sensibilities, and hypnotic simplicity. What happens in the vocal and lyric departments isn’t so easy to pin down. The half-sung, half-spoken words refuse to fit into readily recognizable rhythmic patterns—syllables stick out at unexpected angles, refusing to comply with expectation. It seems highly likely that the words come first, and aren’t trimmed to fit musical pattern. That could be interpreted as amateurism, but only if standard-issue pop is your measure. Their oddly unmusical cataloguing of weird details draws you in regardless, and it may well be a calculated effect. Lyon isn’t exactly a singer—he’s more of a trembly-voiced musical poet with five pounds of words in a three-pound bag. By the end of the album, you feel as if you know Lyon strangely well. —James Heflin

*

Various Artists

Diablos Del Ritmo: The Colombian Melting Pot: 1960-1965

For years, Analog Africa has set the gold standard for reissues of rare African funk. For their survey of Colombian music, the label applies the same intensive research, high production values, and skill for locating tracks which might have been anomalies at the time but sound terrific today. The set boasts styles including Palenque, tropical funk, Puya, Porro, Terrapia, and Cumbiamba—but no previous familiarity is necessary to appreciate the rich offerings here. The piano-led “El Caterete” features an infectious rolling groove; the soulful horn-driven “Enyere Kumbara” could be a lost Fania tune; the funky strutting “Amampondo” has an almost hip-hop swagger; and the echoing sonics of “Wasameye” recall dub reggae. And those are just the first four songs. The 32-tracks of Diablos Del Ritmo are expertly programmed for maximum variety and impact, while the extensive booklet provides valuable background on the musicians, musical styles, and local scenes that birthed these gems. —Jeff Jackson

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