The artist chosen for the focus of this introduction and review is definitely different from any artist we have had before. This week we will be moving away from predominantly electronic music and opening the garden door to indie/alternative greatness.
30 seconds into the Slow Machete experience, you will understand the need I had to write this article. The information provided on SoundCloud indicated that the album sales will be used for development of farms and education in Cap Haitien so I had to find out more about the details of the project. This is the result of an enquiry into its story of passion so I hope you enjoy the review and interview.
Slow Machete - Mango Tree EP (2013)
The appropriately titled Mango Tree EP not only fruits exotic mango sounds, but raw red berry emotions, clear pomegranate aril production and Amazon-sized green atmosphere . In terms of outtallectuality, this album definitely rates very high. It incorporates western folk structures; future garage meets Cuban style drumming and natural beat composition, orchestral arrangements, organic guitars, deep basslines and carbon-based atmosphere. It also boasts countless instruments from saxophones, accordions, chimes, guitars, violins and much more to be uncovered in an omni-genre transnational journey.
The most standout feature of the album is how organic every sound is. Although the arrangements are done electronically, the sounds barely have any synthetic trace. The EP can equally be listened to in a vacation near the equator or at a family Christmas environment. Another attribute to Mango Tree is that it is time and age less as the core overall composition does not compromise for any trend or audience. From your grandfather to grandson, whether you are cool or not, underground or above the clouds, minimalist or maximalist, classical or modern, there is simply no reason this should not be enjoyed.
Most the above can be said about the previous Slow Machete release ‘Evening Dust Choir’. Despite sounding a little less experimental, the two fit a perfect evolution line. Parallel to that, the concept of portraying Haitian culture through sound also improves in the second release.
If you fantasise about how Alt-J would have sounded if they composed complex organic arrangements, or what Jack Johnson would be able to perform if he had 20 limbs and 5 sets of vocal chords, or if you wonder what Burial would sound like if he was from the Central America, get your ears to BandCamp and enjoy Slow Machete.
Q. Can you please tell us about your musical background?
Piano lessons when i was a kid, Johnny Cash, Julio Iglesias, The Police and the radio in the house growing up. Buena Vista Social Club, Rage Against the Machine, Juan Luis Guerra are some favourites for sure.
Q. How did the project come by?
I've been recording Choirs in North Haiti for over 4 years, and for every good 'take' you'd have 2-3 outtakes, some of which had a great emotional moment. I saved these, a few hundred or so outtakes that had some gems in them I couldn't bring myself to delete. So after we put out the first Choir album "Son de Soley" I just played around with these samples with harmonium/accordion lines and rhythms, and they began to form into bigger ideas.
Q. How do the Haitians respond to it?
Mostly they enjoy hearing their voices with the rhythms, some songs they really like, others (especially when I warp their voice) they think are bizarre but make the funniest faces.
Q. Do you think the music represents solely the atmosphere of Haiti?
No not entirely. I spent much of 2011 in Costa Rica and Uruguay assembling these ideas, so I'd imagine that some people might hear those influences as well.
Q. What are your thoughts on genres? Do you ever attempt to classify your music?
I try not to classify it but I love seeing the phrases people come up with. One review classified it as "What just happened?" I was pretty amused by that one.
Q. Why ‘Slow Machete’?
Most of the drum layers have sounds of machetes as percussive sounds pitched or 'slow'ed down. The slowed metal sounds tend to have more expression than a hi-hat alone.
Q. Seeing as you concentrate on one nation to express their culture through sound, what are your thoughts on transnational music and the combination of cultures?
The combination of cultures is inevitable, in many ways its beautiful, like Haitian Creole, its a gorgeous sound of combined languages that sounds even more powerful given Haitis suffering and perseverance. The down-side of transnational music is that pop music can reduce the music of a culture down to a few recognizable sounds until they become a parody. What interests me more is the cultural tendencies and the barriers to entry that keeps people from combining sounds. I love Mexican pop and musica romantica. But there's a brick wall to perform those songs in English. That's incredibly interesting to me with music and culture, how a different language can change how we feel about the exact same thing.
Q. Finally but least importantly, what does the word Outtallectual mean to you?
Its probably the most difficult word I could ever put/rhyme in a song!