Contemplate Saccades a fruitful experiment. It started in 2018, when Ugandan label Nyege Nyege Tapes invited British producer Rian Treanor to carry a residency in Kampala. After listening to a recording from native fiddle grasp Ocen James, he knew they need to collaborate. Although James has no earlier recorded releases, he’s been a fixture in Northern Uganda for years, accompanying artists like Leo PaLayeng and Otim Alpha of their improvement of acholitronix, a twenty first century tackle the normal music of the Acholi folks. Whereas albums from Nyege Nyege have documented this work earlier than, Saccades takes a unique tack, bringing collectively two artists from distinct musical backgrounds to seek out frequent, uncharted floor. The result’s a group of novel, fully-formed tracks that reveal how collaboration uniquely reconfigures Treanor’s labyrinthine productions.
Treanor needed his work with James to really feel like a good break up between their particular person inclinations, and that sentiment is evident from the soar. Opener “Bunga Bule” is all clattering percussion, and its embrace of unprocessed timbres strays from Treanor’s typical digital textures. It’s even-keeled in comparison with his 2020 album File Below UK Metaplasm, a undertaking impressed by the breakneck speeds of Tanzanian singeli. Understanding the roots of Acholi music is essential right here: Traditionally, it’s been outlined by hemiola rhythms, and the instrument that James performs—the rigi rigi—is often utilized in larakaraka ceremonies, that are social gatherings associated to weddings or for imparting knowledge to youngsters. These songs function giant ensembles with calabashes, drums, whistles, horns, and flutes. It’s the fiddle’s tense, winding melodies that assist information and maintain every thing collectively.
You’ll be able to hear the rigi rigi’s commanding presence on “Agoya.” Its thunderous, machine-gun kicks pound time and again, till James’ fiddle arrives with playful squawks. These melodies would sound correct at dwelling within the hypnotic reverie of a Berlin nightclub, and the identical holds true for a extra conventional music like “Rigi Rigi.” Its syncopated beat tumbles ahead with infinite propulsive power, delivering the album’s most masterful showcase of James’ trademark instrument. Each delicate shift in tone and pitch is palpable and its unpredictable raspiness is a delight. It’s uncommon to listen to a recording that locations the titular instrument so ahead within the combine, making this an illuminating alternative to expertise the rigi rigi in all its glory.
There are moments throughout Saccades that skew in direction of avant-garde antecedents; take the noisy clatter in “As It Occurs,” which resembles the work of cellist Okkyung Lee. Regardless of the unwieldy free-improv leanings of this observe, there is a bridge connecting the 2 worlds. When the music climaxes with a rare rumble—dramatic sufficient to sound like revving engines—the drum’s sheer drive is plain; it remembers the authoritative function of the min bul (“grasp drum”) in Acholi music.
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