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Burnt Friedman - Bokoboko

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Artist: Burnt Friedman

Album: Bokoboko

Label: Nonplace

Review date: Jun. 7, 2012

Nonplace is multi-instrumentalist Burnt Friedman’s personal label, and the name is not lightly chosen. You’ll find an essay on the label’s site about the politics of “outernationality,” a state of statelessness, which sheds light on the motivations for Friedman’s multicultural sound mix. Another touchstone is the work of his compatriots in Can, particularly their Ethnographic Forgery Series, which appropriated ethnic sounds from all over the world in a way that made them all equal. Subordination, boundaries, and destructive consumption are the enemies here.

Friedman has forged a personal association with Can by recording extensively with their drummer, Jaki Liebezeit. Liebezeit isn’t on this record, but he might as well be, so closely does it resemble the music on their four Secret Rhythms albums. Bokoboko likewise puts rhythm first. But Friedman’s rhythms are not monolithic or heavy. His drums and programmed beats are fleet, light, full of space; however they also tend toward repetition, so that pieces seem to comb over the same ground rather than move into new territory. Much of the music’s progress comes from a second line of tunes and textures that feel vaguely oriental without ever committing themselves to a particular ethnicity. Sproingy, dub-derived effects and serpentine keyboard and reed melodies wave at you from behind the grooves, like people on a yard well back from the street.

An image that came to me repeatedly as I listened for those tunes was of the musicians playing badminton, lightly swatting themes like little birdies, while I leaned on the fence of Friedman’s rhythms, just a little too far away to feel connected to the action. There’s plenty to like here if you take the time to get acquainted, but you have to approach the music; it’s not going to reach out to you.

By Bill Meyer

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