Saturday, June 30, 2007

OKI DUB AINU BAND - Oki Dub Ainu Band (Chikar)

Two years ago, OKI and his Dub Ainu Band burst onto the UK world music scene with a storming performance at WOMAD, taking the traditional North Japanese folk melodies played on the tonkori (a long, flat, unfretted guitar) and beefing them up with vocals, electric bass, percussion and occasional electric guitar to produce an exhilarating sound ranging from rock to dub to funk, without quite being exactly any of those things. It was all a thrilling surprise for those of us who were already aware of the outfit’s appealingly abstract but slightly uneven album that had just been released — the largely instrumental (and teasingly brief) Dub Ainu. Matters were made even more confusing towards the end of 2006 with the far more satisfying (but defiantly more considered and rootsy) team-up with Irish folkies Kila, which coincided with the return to our shores of that rocking concert line-up.
So, now that the Kila and OKI line-up is about to make its UK concert appearance, what better way to keep us on our toes than to finally release that much-anticipated stripped down, straight-ahead OKI Dub Ainu Band album. With OKI and fellow tonkori-player Ikabe Futoshi pulling some surprisingly varied rhythms out of this three-to-five-stringed instrument, the songs are pushed and pulled in all sorts of interesting directions by funky bass and percussion, and either filtered through subtle studio enhancement (mostly dub) or kept in its original raw but always melodic state.
Highlights include a rousing version of Topattumi (which also appears on the Kila album) that is surely heading for anthem status amongst OKI fans, and the reggae-tinged Iyomante Upopo, which features some masterful electric guitar from Hirohisa, sounding like a dubbed up version of Mali’s Super Rail Band. The opener, East of Kunashiri, is probably the best overall embodiment yet of the OKI sound, being anchored in his native Ainu province by the distinctive tonkori twang but shot through with a resonant, other-worldly, dubby atmosphere.


Paula said...

Great work.

Nathan said...

His first album after this just came out today. I've been listening to it and it's really good. I think I'll have to check out this one too. I thought you might want to hear the new one.