Transglobal Underground


(Copyright © 1999 Piero Scaruffi | Legal restrictions - Termini d'uso )
Dream Of 100 Nations, 7/10
International Times, 7/10
Psychic Karaoke , 6.5/10
Rejoice Rejoice , 5/10
Yes Boss Food Corner , 5/10
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I Transglobal Underground sono un gruppo multirazziale della Gran Bretagna che in pratica diede il nome al movimento della "trance transglobale". I Transglobal Underground stanno a questo genere come i Dead Can Dance stanno al rock gotico/medievale: la loro e` un'arte di tempo (musicale) e di timbro.

I manifesti del genere furono il singolo d'esordio, Templehead (1991), e l'album Dream Of 100 Nations (Nation, 1993). Rimescolando elementi di world-music, ambientale, dub, hip hop e techno, e riciclando idee della musica new age, l'ensemble metteva in pista le sonorita` etniche al ritmo dell'house. Il melisma esotico di Natacha Atlas (nata a Bruxelles da una famiglia di origini arabe ed ebraiche) aggiungeva al melange quel tocco sensuale che non guasta. I musicisti (Alex Kasiek alle tastiere, Hamid Mantu alle percussioni, Nick "Count Dubulah" Page al basso) l'accompagnavano con tono distaccato e avevano il pregio di non prendersi (ancora) troppo sul serio, ma anche il difetto di non padroneggiare nessuno dei mille artifizi che utilizzavano, come maestri del puzzle che, incapaci di riconoscere le forme che devono ricomporre, non riescano a far altro che scombinare in continuazione i pezzi del mosaico. Slowfinger il classico. Il meno visibile dei cinque, Mantu, era invece autore di gran parte del materiale.

International Times (Nation, 1994 - Epic, 1995) conserva quello spirito disinvolto e scanzonato. Nel calderone finiscono piu` o meno gli stessi ingredienti. Al catalogo delle novelty "transglobali" il gruppo consegna soprattutto il rap "arabo" di Lookee Here, che funge da modello di riferimento per meta` dei 16 brani. Non c'e` molto di piu`, per la verita`: giusto il riff da palude e il tribalismo sfrenato di Jatayu, la possente percussivita` di Dustbowl. Per movimentare brani che sono alquanto ripetitivi e monotoni il gruppo deve ricorrere ad attrazioni locali, come l'ouverture orchestrale e il violino tzigano di Taal Zaman, il campionamento ipnotico di Tromba Marina, il coro festoso da cerimonia collettiva di Temple Head. Se gran parte di questi brani sono soltanto pasticci infantili nel campo del ballabile occidentale a sfondo etnico, i Transglobal Underground sono pur sempre fra coloro che stanno scrivendo la colonna sonora per il villaggio globale di cui predicano gli sociologhi.

The idea was pioneered by the multiracial group Transglobal Underground, featuring Natacha Atlas' exotic melisma, Nick "Count Dubulah" Page's creative sampling, Alex Kasiek's surreal keyboards and Hamid Mantu's forest of percussions, on Dream Of 100 Nations (1993) and International Times (1994), that fused dance, ambient and ethnic styles. It was not a sterile exercise of Arabic-African-Indian fusion, but a stab at reinventing rhythm itself: their "world beat" was solidly rooted in ethnic traditions from around the world, but was no longer any of them. As they replaced samples with real instruments, they also achieved a warmer (and more authentically "ethnic") sound on Psychic Karaoke (1996).
If English is your first language and you could translate this text, please contact me.
Transglobal Underground is a multiracial band from Britain that, basically, christened the movement of "transglobal trance". Transglobal Underground are to transglobal trance what Dead Can Dance are to gothic/medieval rock: theirs is an art of tempo and timbre, and ultimately of atmosphere.
Natacha Atlas started her solo career in 1995.

By largely replacing samples with human musicians, Psychic Karaoke (MCA, 1996) boasts a crisper ethnic sound. The Arabic-African-Indian stew is warmer and smoother than ever. In Chariots, while the rhythm evokes caravans of the desert and her male counterpart raps like a Jamaican toaster surrounded by a choir of children, Atlas croons ancient wails that mix Jewish, Arab and Spanish traditions. The problem is that there is nothing new in tracks like Ancient Dreams Of The Sky, that merely stir ethnic instruments, electronic beats and Atlas' chants, no matter how calibrated is the fusion of elements.
The combo does a good job of reinventing reggae (Lexicona), dub (Eyeway Souljah), and drum'n'bass (Bullet Train) with elegance and nonchalance. Bullet Train is wrapped in kosmische electronics, Atlas' chanting, Velvet Underground-ish drones.
The album is certainly not about innovation, but rather evolution and refinement of a successful idea. However, Mouth Wedding is a propulsive piece that relies on Jewish harp, driving Indian rhythm, heavy-metal guitar and sampled voices, and marks a slight departure from their usual mix. Boss Tabla is equally disorienting, thanks to an industrial harshness, macabre church bells, spaghetti-western guitar and a recurring music-box theme, all overlaid to a frantic gallop. Psycho Karaoke lays down a super-busy afro-caribbean soundscape and then carves it with spy-thriller themes for xylophone and symphonic orchestra. The album comes to a close with the alien/robotic trance/dance of International Times that seems to roam alien wastelands. the album in a claustrophobic atmosphere
Ultimately, Transglobal Underground is about reinventing rhythm itself. Their "world beat" is solidly rooted in ethnic traditions from around the world, but is no longer any of them.

Dispensing with Count Dubulah (who joined rivals Loop Guru) and downplaying Atlas' Middle-eastern vocals, Rejoice Rejoice (MCA, 1998) ends up sounding like trivial producer-driven "ethno-techno". Except for the closing Sky Giant and Shining Iron Face, the tracks are the least inventive of their career. Thousand Year Heat, Rude Buddah, Ali Mullah and A Nice Little Fish Business And Making Money are entertaining but ultimately an insult to what Transglobal Underground used to stand for.

Natacha Atlas's solo albums were easily better than the contemporary Transglobal Underground albums,

Trans-Global Underground's Nick Page formed Dub Colossus with Ethiopian and English musicians. Their In A Town Called Addis (2008) fused Afro-pop, jazz, blues and reggae.

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