Karl Hector & The Malcouns – Sahara Swing Karl Hector & The Malcouns is what’s happening right now in instrumental music. Taking James Brown’s devotion to “on the one” funk, a term that refers to the emphasis on which a rhythm unfolds, and combining it with the sounds of Ethopia, Karl Hector & The Malcouns have produced an execeptional album, with plenty of surprises along the way.

The album opens with “When the Sun Breaks Through” which sounds like a call to arms, a rallying cry to the gods of super heavy soul music. The syncopated African rhythm gives way to a horn section that clearly means business. This first track is used to set the stage for the album, with multiple transitions interspersed throughout the album to tie everything together.

The personal on this album all have stellar credentials in the world of funk music, with members coming from the Poets of Rhythm and the Whitefield Brothers, as well as others. J. Whitefield is the common denominator between all of these bands, having played guitar and producing on all three of them. Sahara Swing is a different direction for these guys, though, with the African influences coming front row and center–something that was only teased, albeit heavily teased, on the Whitefield Brothers album In the Raw.

(Side note: The Poets of Rhythm record under many pseudonyms, one of which is The Polyversal Souls. They released a 45 single which is heavy in its afro-beat influences, and you can listen to the tunes, “Muswellhill Run” and “Sad Nile”, on their Myspace page.)

There is a feeling of menace throughout the album, with songs such as “Followed Path” and “Koloko pt. 1″ really bringing that feeling to the forefront, but overall the album has a very triumphant feel and sound to it. The drummer is well versed in breakbeats and has the good sense to extend them throughout the whole track, instead of leaving them for the breakdowns. The bass and drums are as in-the-pocket as you can be, which stands in opposition to the almost lazy guitar, keyboard and percussion work–and I mean the lazy thing in a good way. The guitar sort of pops in when it wants to, and is always nicely complimented by the keyboards. The band creates a real “push-pull” effect, where each instrument fills in for the others when one is absent, something that the Poets of Rhythm are masters of.

Fans of David Holmes soundtrack work for Steven Soderbergh will find a lot to like here–minus some of Holmes’ more annoying tendancies, like the little digital bleeps and bloops he throughs in. Sahara Swing has that “library” feel to it, but more in line with Nino Nardini than Ennio Morricone.

The album has nineteen tracks, but only twelve are full lengths–the rest are the aforementioned transition tracks. If you are downloading from iTunes or emusic, etc I would recommend getting the whole album, and not skipping those transition tracks. They serve the album very well, and don’t come off as filler.

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