26 January 2011

Review: The Rhythmagic Orchestra 'The Rhythmagic Orchestra'

The Rhythmagic Orchestra
[Impossible Ark / Unfold / Tru Thoughts]

As I lean back in my plushly lined listening chair in the expansive sound lounge of Chez Nyntee, with a cup of tea in one hand & the hi fi remote in the other, casually dictating this week’s Radio Ponsonby Record Review to one of my many personal assistants, a troubling thought again crosses my crumpled brow…

Why does good music like this get so little attention?

OK, so to us cynics the answers seem painfully obvious, so much so that I will simply ask you, dear reader, this: does the TV3 Nightline news team really need to be “reporting” about Justin Bieber? It’s after 10pm. What IS their target audience…?

But we at In The Pocket are not about to launch into a general rant about the many failings of the culture of celebrity while there’s an opportunity to carve some interest for a group who most certainly fall squarely into the aforementioned “brow-crumpling” category.

The Rhythmagic Orchestra was conceived & is produced by Benedic Lamdin & Hugo Mendez, two individuals with deep roots in Jazz & Latin music respectively; while the Orchestra themselves count members of Nostalgia 77 Octet, Ska Cubano, Examples Of Twelve & Jazz Jamaica among their number.

Lamdin himself is Nostalgia 77 & the co-owner of Impossible Ark, the label this self-titled debut is released upon (via Unfold & Tru Thoughts). He has long been championed in the British Jazz scene & beyond, with his work with UK legends Keith & Julie Tippett, as well as his critically acclaimed Skeletons project, of particular note to the Jazz Cats. His collaboration with Alice Russell on the massive slab of music that is Seven Nation Army, their stonking version of the White Stripes’ track, is a huge reason why he has also turned Heads in underground dance music circles.

Speaking of underground dance music circles, Hugo Mendez has generated more than a few & been gainfully employed in many more than that in his time. His own record label, Sofrito, is a true beacon of Latin-based music & he is considered a leading light in the London “tropical music revival” (for want of a better phrase). He assisted Soundway Records in compiling their outstanding Tumbele compilation & has brought tropical music to the heads & feets of many folks across the UK & Europe.

Enough nerding out – what about the music?

It’s not often you can put an all instrumental album on your stereo & have it hold your attention from start to finish. I have listened to the Rhythmagic Orchestra album no less than five times through in the last couple of days. It is genuinely compelling listening, particularly for a fan of Soundway Records, Quantic & His Combo Barbaro & (dare I say it!?) the Buena Vista Social Club.

The Rhythmagic Orchestra features some of the finest Jazz & Latin musicians in the UK, so it’s no surprise that the rhythm section’s interaction is excitingly fresh & the rhythms playful; the lyrical melodies are strongly presented via some beautiful brass playing; & it is all tied together with an understated, never overplayed, hand by a very versatile pianist. It seems as though everyone involved is playing FOR the betterment of each song. Wow, what a concept!

The Rhythmagic Orchestra have presented us with a beautiful blend of Jazz & Cuban music, well crafted & passionately played, which makes for vibrant, liberating listening, from top to bottom. The only sensible thing to do is turn the Bieber-dial down & get your stereo speakers popping with some actual music.

In A Nutshell: Liberating, vibrant, compelling Jazz/Cuban music, well crafted & passionately played.
90's Rating: EIGHT stoned bongo players out of TEN.

Listen to the Radio Ponsonby Record Review every Wenerei at 8.30am on Murry Sweetpants' Breakfast Show. Huge thanks to Longroom for sponsoring the review. Nice one.

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