Monday, August 18, 2008
WATCHA CLAN - Diaspora Hi-Fi (Piranha)
"File under World / France/ Algeria/ Mediterranean" is the advice given on Marseille-based Watcha Clan's latest album, and you could well add Balkan / Hip-Hop/ Sephardic/ Reggae to that list as the fiery collective from France's cultural melting po(r)t stretch a host of disparate genres to modern-beats-driven breaking point.
Suprem Clem is the programmer and sampler, Matt Labesse the funky bassist, but vocalist Sista K is the focal point, a multilingual Franco-Algerian Ashkenazi Jew who is at home in a variety of styles, notably the strident Sephardic rocker Marashtein, jaunty Balkan party piece Balkan Qoulou and the Arabic-Andalusian acoustic ballad Ch'ilet La'yani.
However, the inclusion of a multitude of musical flavours is hard to sustain consistently over a whole album, and there are times when the modern beats swamp melodies too fragile to hold their own.
But it all clicks into place more often than not, and it's well worth sticking around all the way to the adventurous closing track Oued El Chouli, where Sista K is joined on vocals by guitarist Nassim Kouti on a lazy reggae skank that switches into a brooding dubbed-up gnawa groove. Compelling.