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Afro Celt Sound System - Volume 2: Release


Afro Celt gets heavier and captures their live feel on this impressive second outing

I've had the pleasure of seeing the Afro Celt Sound System in concert twice: last year at the WOMAD Festival in Seattle, and later that year at the Showbox in Seattle. The live band consists of a core group of seven people, giving off some of the most joyous live vibes I've experienced. It's clear these people truly enjoy the hell out of playing live, and they put on a completely high energy show, combining manic techno beats with intense African percussion and Celtic melodies.

Their new album, "Volume 2: Release," nearly manages to capture that live energy, and definitely offers as rich a listening experience. I have to confess a severe amount of ignorance when it comes to both traditional Celtic music, and traditional African music. Like many Americans, my forays into what is laughably called "world" music are limited; often times I like what I hear but have no idea what it is exactly I'm listening to. The magic of the WOMAD Festival the past two years has been the exposure to a vast array of modern and traditional sounds, and the Afro Celt Sound System represents a thoroughly unique fusion of these sounds.

From the opening track "Release," which features the guest vocals of Sinead O'Connor, the pulsing undercurrent of the music is in charge and essentially never lets up. The combination of heavily programmed techno beats, and the live sound of the talking drum, the djembe, tablas, and other percussion, is the foundation upon which a blazing mixture of uillean pipes (similar sounding to the bagpipes), flutes and whistles, guitars, and keyboards are laid down. The vocals of Iarla O LionŠird and N'Faly Kouyate permeate the mix; O LionŠird's solo album "The Seven Steps To Mercy," also on the Real World label, is a much more sublime affair compared to the intensity of the vocals and the beats on this album.

It's hard to say if "Volume 2" is much of an improvement on the formula the band created with their first Real World release, "Volume 1: Sound Magic." Rather it seems an extension of a formula that is itself unique enough to warrant two such similar sounding albums. In concert, we began to feel as though we were hearing the same song more than once by the time the end of the shows drew near, but that wasn't necessarily such a bad thing, because we couldn't help but dance our happy asses off to the strange and wonderful fusion they'd created. Overall, if you're a fan of the first album, the second one is definitely worth a listen, and if you haven't heard them before, "Volume 2" is as good a place as any to become familiar with this remarkable modern "world techno" band.

Tags : psychedelic
Rating : Teen - Drugs
Posted on: 2001-03-05 00:00:00