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Crammed Discs
Review by Bruce Miller


Kampala based Nyege Nyege Tapes havs been exposing the world to Africa's vast electronic dance scene for the last few years now. The label, coupled with their festival, which plans a hybrid version this September featuring acts from all over the African continent and elsewhere, is receiving much deserved accolades for pushing the boundaries with amplified rhythms via artists such as Otim Alpha's electro takes on Acholi tribe wedding songs, European producers Metal Preyers' radically altered manipulations of Ugandan traditional instruments, Nairobi-based dark noise merchants Duma, or Jako Maron's drastic electronic re-interpretations of his native island Reunion's Maloya folk music. It's also the label that brought us Nihiloxica's first two EPs.

This sextet, featuring two Europeans on kit drums and electronics and four Ugandans who live and play traditional hand drums in Kampala as the Nilotika Cultural Ensemble, is named after the giant Marabou storks found in much of sub-Saharan Africa. These birds, nearly as tall as people, ugly and menacing, are scavengers on the ground but graceful in the air. None of this describes this band, though like the Marabou stork, Nihiloxica thrive in Kampala and elsewhere, thanks to Belgian imprint Crammed Discs- known as the label that helped bring Konono #1 and lots of other electro-traditional Congolese hybrids to the rest of the world.


Regardless of the label change, Kaloli should surprise no one who's heard the band's earlier releases. Perhaps the sounds are bit less jagged in their force, but the dark, wasteland-washes of synth never disguise this as music to get physical with. Its primary concern is equal parts dance and trance, something percussion ensembles all over the African continent honed to perfection centuries ago. In that sense, Nihiloxica perform an update on ancient ritual that connects them equally to contemporary artists such as Hieroglyphic Being, but also to a variety of age-old regional Ugandan drum styles such as Busoga and Bwola. In fact, these rhythms have tracks named after them. "Bwola" thrashes and crashes forward after a menacing build courtesy of Spooky J's synth squelches, which sometimes whir underneath and at other times drop into the grooves like sheets of metal being slammed repeatedly onto concrete.


"Salongo" rides hushed tones of complex hand drum patterns and stationary kit drum augmentation. The hand drums shift mid-song as synth-slices cruise in tandem, while the kit player never flinches. These six folks bring us music to which the ways to listen are many. Kaloli works as afterhours come-down medicine, sonic creepiness soundtracking a severely damaged planet, or as industrial dance music ripe for shaking bodies on a ranshackle dance floor. Take your pick. However you listen, know that you're hearing a 21st century cross-continental collaboration that yanks at music's very foundations. It's not quite like the Angstromers' manipulation of Chouk Bwa's traditional Haitian Voodoo rhythms. Here, the blend feels total, cloaking the otherwise recognizable in the deep fabrics of some unknown late night fashion. - Bruce Miller

Find the artists online.

Further adventures:
Bantou Mentale
Fra Fra Power
Hugh Tracey field recordings

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