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Thursday, June 18, 2009

Dissidenten - Life at the Pyramids

Name: Dissidenten
Album: Life at the Pyramids
Year: 1986
Style: World, Prog
Similar Bands: Firewater, some XTC, some Talking Heads, (very uneducated in World Music)
"One-Word" Review: India-African-Disco-Pop-Prog
Based Out Of: Berlin, Germany
Label: Shanachie, Exil Musik
Life At The Pyramids - Cover & Record
Life At The Pyramids - Back & Record

Life At The Pyrmaids (1986)
  1. Sultan Swing 5:56
  2. Mata Hari 5:48
  3. Telephone Arab 6:05
  4. Blue Nile 2:00/
  5. At The Pyramids 4:38
  6. Berlin Beduins 4:20
  7. Roots of Tanger 3:20
  8. Do the Pharaoo 6:10
  9. Song for Winnie Mandela 2:30
Album Rating (1-10): 5.5

Members & Other Bands:
Marlon Klein - Drums, Perc, Keyboards, Vox (Gary Wright)
Uve Mullrich - Bass, Oud, Guitar, Vox
Friedo Josch - Wind Instruments, Keyboards
Sheik Abdul Al Rashid - Recording
Marlon Klein - Engineering, Producer
Gunni Heidler - Recording
Stella Chiweshe - Recording, Vox, Mbira
Arno Declair - Photos
Ernst Wirz - Photos, Visual Dissidenten
Hartmut Bremer - Cover
Dan Behrman - US/Canada Booking
El Houssaine Kili - Guitar, Vox, Lyric & Musical Background Info
Hamid Barudi - Vox
Rabii Youmni - Vox
Cherif M Lamrani - Vox, Mandolincello, Lyric & Musical Background Info (Lem Chaheb)
Richie Arndt - Guitar
Charlie Genwo - Fluegelhorn
Roman Bunka - Guitar, Oud
Mohammed "Zain" Adnani - Nay, Vox
Abdelkader Zefzaf - Gimbri, Vox
Roland Spremberg - Keys, Computer Programming
Ernst Walder - Visual Dissidenten
Daniel (Apropos) - Visual Dissidenten
Lilo Nido - Visual Dissidenten
Nadine Fachard - Ethnological Advice

Unknown-ness: I’ve never heard of these guys. But from the name (along with lots of dental work I’ve had recently) “Denten” sounds like it is related to teeth. And from the high energy on the cover and the group photo on the back, I am under the impression that they will be like Adam Ant or Midnight Oil or some new wave, tribal/roots based band. However, most of their songs have a middle eastern theme to them, so I really don’t know what to expect, except that I picked this up because I like the look of the album and there name has a lot of energy in it too.

Album Review: Reading about these Germans, they moved around Europe and Middle East; even to parts of Africa to incorporate the culture, tribal and national sounds to create a conglomerate sound of world music before world beat was created. They have been sited as the grandfathers of the genre. I do not know much, if anything about world music, so this will be a review taken from the background of minimal jazz and prog rock jamming. Please forgive my naivety and probably unintelligence in this review when it comes to musical descriptions.

“Sultan Swing” starts off with a slow fade up into an Arabian sounding flute, tribal drums, and a general hum in the background. The drum beat picks up a ceremonial dance beat, and Middle Eastern (M.E.) style music commences. Vocals and chanting are laid over top in melodic parallel to the music. The little bit of music I listen to that has a similar to this is Firewater’s most recent album, Golden Hour, and some of XTC’s late 80’s music (think “Terrorism”) sound very similar. I’m even to na├»ve about the music to try and explain what instruments are being utilized. There are two or three distinct sounds that ride each other like musical waves up and down the melodies.
“Mata Hari” starts with a more forceful, driving drum beat and M.E. music continues, this time, accented with guitars which sound very progressive, in the realms of video game music. After the electric guitar solo, the musical genre is transformed into a Caribbean / Island music theme, featuring a rhythm guitar instead and a Talking Heads like vocal style. But when the guitar changes, the singing does too, fitting more into an Indian style than Caribbean.
“Telephone Arab” begins like a night club Arabian dance, with a catchy M.E. hook repeating and layered over a simple staggered electro/techno drum & bass beat. The vocals too, feature the accentuated syllables synonymous with M.E. music. It does go on for a bit, without much variation, but the synth music that accompanies the M.E. music is a little bombastic, like jilting disco.
“Blue Nile” is a dark, swirling building section of a song, like the calm before the sand storm you can see tornado-ing around at the distance horizon. The vocals sound like they are mixed backwards, skipping as they are played in reverse. There is an echoing on the woodwind instruments that almost sounds like bees buzzing around.

“At The Pyramids” begins with a quiet peaceful hum, and what I imagine to be a sitar picked, with its unique, buzz-rattling sound. After a minute 45 sing chanting begins like waking up, and rising as the sun follows your movements into the sky. It is a slow moving song, eyes uncrusting into awakeness. The hum also ends the track
“Berlin Beduins” feels like another video game with a synth mandolin introduction. The song is dark, and again sung with the stereotypical M.E. style of extended syllables and vibrated pitch changes. An electric guitar gives some solo licks, uncharacteristically metal, over the continuing music backdrop.
“Roots of Tanger” has an unsettled, rumbling beginning of randomly plucked deep bass sounding notes and bongo/tribal drum rhythms. This song is more African in its sounding that M.E. but it is not without mentioning that some of the vocals do rely on M.E. style. As the music finds its repetitive rhythm, the vocals take turns going in and out of chanting and into effects and speaking.
“Do the Pharaoo” starts out with a complicated drum rhythm, and the vocals croon over top, gently touching on the notes that are suggested by the rhythm. In the second verse, a rhythm guitar is added to the mix. The chorus, which is the majority of the song, is pretty catchy, and feels like a video game musical loop. The drums and rhythm guitar carry the melody and give a base of where the improved instrumentation can shoot from. And there is a lot of musical jamming in the second half of the song. The verse is remixed and shifter around to be different, but equally as catchy, it is just a bit too repetitive.
“Song for Winnie Mandela” ends the album with a delicate bell/xylophone mix, with an uplifting pleasant bass line (a little like XTC’s “Battery Brides” or Spoon’s “Anything You Want”). The vocals are African tribal in their meter, and the song feels a little like a Paul Simon song. A flute dances around in the background for extra texture, and ads a great deal to the track as it fades out for the finish.

Stand Out Track: Song For Winnie Mandella


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