Rian Treanor / Ocen James - Saccades Music Album Reviews

Rian Treanor / Ocen James - Saccades Music Album Reviews
Propulsive and winding, this collaborative album is a hypnotic exercise in reimagining the past and future of a Ugandan tradition.

Consider Saccades a fruitful experiment. It began in 2018, when Ugandan label Nyege Nyege Tapes invited British producer Rian Treanor to hold a residency in Kampala. After hearing a recording from local fiddle master Ocen James, he knew they should collaborate. Though James has no previous recorded releases, he’s been a fixture in Northern Uganda for years, accompanying artists like Leo PaLayeng and Otim Alpha in their development of acholitronix, a 21st century take on the traditional music of the Acholi people. While albums from Nyege Nyege have documented this work before, Saccades takes a different tack, bringing together two artists from distinct musical backgrounds to find common, uncharted ground. The result is a collection of novel, fully-formed tracks that reveal how collaboration uniquely reconfigures Treanor’s labyrinthine productions.

Treanor wanted his work with James to feel like an even split between their individual inclinations, and that sentiment is clear from the jump. Opener “Bunga Bule” is all clattering percussion, and its embrace of unprocessed timbres strays from Treanor’s typical electronic textures. It’s even-keeled compared to his 2020 album File Under UK Metaplasm, a project inspired by the breakneck speeds of Tanzanian singeli. Understanding the roots of Acholi music is key here: Historically, it’s been defined by hemiola rhythms, and the instrument that James plays—the rigi rigi—is typically used in larakaraka ceremonies, which are social gatherings related to weddings or for imparting wisdom to children. These songs feature large ensembles with calabashes, drums, whistles, horns, and flutes. It’s the fiddle’s tense, winding melodies that help guide and hold everything together.

You can hear the rigi rigi’s commanding presence on “Agoya.” Its thunderous, machine-gun kicks pound over and over, until James’ fiddle arrives with playful squawks. These melodies would sound right at home in the hypnotic reverie of a Berlin nightclub, and the same holds true for a more traditional song like “Rigi Rigi.” Its syncopated beat tumbles forward with endless propulsive energy, delivering the album’s most masterful showcase of James’ trademark instrument. Every subtle shift in tone and pitch is palpable and its unpredictable raspiness is a delight. It’s rare to hear a recording that places the titular instrument so forward in the mix, making this an illuminating opportunity to experience the rigi rigi in all its glory.

There are moments across Saccades that skew towards avant-garde antecedents; take the noisy clatter in “As It Happens,” which resembles the work of cellist Okkyung Lee. Despite the unwieldy free-improv leanings of this track, there is a bridge connecting the two worlds. When the song climaxes with an extraordinary rumble—dramatic enough to sound like revving engines—the drum’s sheer force is undeniable; it recalls the authoritative role of the min bul (“master drum”) in Acholi music.

Even the most conceptual tracks on Saccades’ contain small production details worthy of admiration. On “Casascade,” James plays over moody synth pads, their swells befitting the ambient comedown of a long rave. While it’s among the album’s simplest assemblage of ideas, the fiddle is still thrilling. More complex is “The Dead Center,” whose brooding synths and cryptic chimes distill and transform larakaraka into a queasy, dystopian nightmare. “Naasaccade” forgoes the fiddle entirely, but is still exhilarating for how it remains true to Acholi music’s spirit—its polyrhythms sound like calabashes, drums, and gara (small bells attached to dancers’ legs) that have been reconfigured into one of percussionist Eli Keszler’s jam sessions.

Saccades closes with “Remo Rom,” an extraordinary remix that shouldn’t be mistaken for a bonus track. The song doesn’t otherwise appear on the album, but the Viennese electronic music group Farmers Manual tackles it here. There’s a fascinating sprawl of ideas in these two minutes: We have the “laptop music” pioneers of yesteryear reworking the album’s only track with vocals—an alarming fact given the importance of voice in larakaraka. “Remo Rom” is simultaneously embedded in generations of musical history while blazing ahead into a dizzying, unknown future. Saccades is a consistent marvel in this way: It’s reverential to its forebears, but in constant search of innovation.

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About Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera

Hey, I'm Perera! I will try to give you technology reviews(mobile,gadgets,smart watch & other technology things), Automobiles, News and entertainment for built up your knowledge.
Rian Treanor / Ocen James - Saccades Music Album Reviews Rian Treanor / Ocen James - Saccades Music Album Reviews Reviewed by Wanni Arachchige Udara Madusanka Perera on January 30, 2023 Rating: 5


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