A percussionists dreamland.
I love a genre and culture mash up and they don’t get much more celebratory or carnival-like than this. Chouk Bwa is a six-piece Caribbean band from Haiti. They create mainly percussion and vocal music that sound like you are at an all-day carnival. The Ångströmers are a Belgian producer duo whom mix and produce additional synths and sounds over the top and underneath what Chouk Bwa present. Chouk Bwa is very much front and centre in the collaboration but its The Ångströmers touch that brings the music towards a more electronic and dance sound and vibe.
Across the albums nine tracks, you are barely given room to breathe. Each track dives into the voodoo vibe that Chouk Bwa revel in. The percussion, almost all of which is traditional, mounts up fast and furiously. There are points in some tracks where its speeding along like a rhythmic machine of entrancement. It is genuinely impressive and the band specialise in Polyrhythm beats (where more than one rhythm beat is being used at once.) This makes each track busy but you can choose which beat you want to follow. This combined with the chants that ride the percussive wave at all times makes for an invigorating album that is perfect for pumping you up for any task ahead of you.
Where The Ångströmers come in is a little unclear but the bass throughout the album is pronounced to the point where sometimes its the loudest instrument. Sharp synths scissor in and throb as it carries the drums and vocals along, Sometimes it feels more drone-like as if you are hearing the ambience of a hollow cave. Other times it is more dancefloor focused and funky. It is this edge that allows what is a traditional album move into the dance and electronica realm. It is subtle, but it makes a huge difference. My only negative around this is that sometimes that means Chouk Bwa and the fantastic vocal chorus they provide is sometimes a bit too low in the mix. This is a personal preference though.
The album also works as a unit altogether. When I bought it last week, I found myself unable to stop after songs and ended finding it would give me the energy to power on with chores and then want to dance around my living room. It is infectious and liberating whilst feeling like you are taking part in a ceremony so there is also a more guttural underbelly to some of the songs too. I have definitely found my go-to album for pumping myself up in 2020 and we all know how much most of the world needs that right now. A true hidden gem in music – Vodou Ale will get you moving in no time.
Recommended track: Odjay – Nati Kongo
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