Mon 21 Aug 2017 to Sun 27 Aug 2017

by The Senegambian Jazz Band

The Senegambian Jazz Band - The Senegambian Jazz Band (PBS Feature Record)

The Senegambian Jazz Band have quickly become a must-see live act in Melbourne since their inception in 2015. Blending elements of jazz, funk and rock to traditional poly-rhythms all underpinned by the hypnotic sound of the Kora, a traditional West African stringed instrument, they present a unique fusion of musical styles that is entirely their own, but pan-African in its outlook.

Kora player/vocalist Amadou Suso sings in Mandinka, one of the most widely spoken languages of his homeland The Gambia, over percussive and rhythmic elements drawn from Senegal, Ghana and Ethiopia. Recorded live with minimal overdubs, the 12 tracks on The Senegambian Jazz Band are an essential document of one of Melbourne’s most distinctive musical groupings in recent memory.

EMA - Exile In The Outer Ring (Featured on The Breakfast Spread)

After the success of 2011’s Past Life Martyred Saints and 2014’s prophetic The Future’s Void, EMA retreated to a basement in Portland, Oregon – a generic apartment complex in a non-trendy neighborhood, with beige carpeting and cheap slat blinds. Now, she returns, with a portrait of The Outer Ring: A pitch-black world of dark night highways, American flags hung over basement windows, jails and revival meetings and casinos and rage. In a year dominated by white working-class alienation and anger, EMA – a Midwesterner who never lost her thousand-yard stare -- has delivered an album that renders Middle American poverty and resentment with frightening realism and deep empathy.

“I want to explain to outsiders that the people where I come from aren’t beyond hope and reason,” says EMA, “I want this record to bridge a divide.”

The album, co-produced with Jacob Portrait of Unknown Mortal Orchestra, is a return to EMA’s roots in the noise-folk outfit Gowns, whose 2007 album Red State prefigured many of Exile’s core themes, along with its mix of stripped-back folk (“Always Bleeds,” originally a Gowns song), spoken word (“Where the Darkness Began”) and noise epics (“Breathalyzer”).

The album is unique in its mingling of gender politics with American working-class anxiety. The voices we hear in these songs — druggy, surly societal outcasts; Byronic nihilists bringing down fire — speak to a kind of rebellion that’s typically reserved for men, and the archetype of the “dirtbag teenage boy” dominates the album. Yet EMA claims some of that same dirtbag alienation for women — “a woman who swallowed a scumbag teen boy whole,” as EMA puts it – and uses it to interrogate both her own vulnerability and how male violence shapes the world, as on the anthemic “Aryan Nation.”

The result is a deeply personal, confrontational, but ultimately redemptive album from a quintessentially American artist at the peak of her form.

This week's Top 10:

The Senegambian Jazz Band - The Senegambian Jazz Band
EMA - Exile In The Outer Ring
Bench Press - Bench Press
Birdz - Train of Thought
Emma Russack - Permanent Vacation
Wolf Eyes - No Hate
Various Artists - Stylin' 800
Devil Electric - Devil Electric
The Likes Of You - For They Are Sailors Just Like You And Seasick Just The Same
Yeo - Desire Path