Tumbling oud, rumbling basslines

Azzddine Ouhnine with Bill Laswell

Massafat (Barraka Recordings/Barbarity 023, 2004)
I can’t honestly claim to be totally enamored of some releases on the Barraka
back-catalogue, likewise some of Mr. Laswell’s collaborations do not bear
re-visiting. However, this melding of the awesome bassman with Moroccan singer &
ud maestro Azzddine Ouhnine under the auspices of the enigmatic Moroccan/Swiss
production team, headed-up by deadly Pat Jabbar, is indeed a musical marriage
made in heaven. Bill sticks to what he’s best at – spanking the plank – whilst Jabbar & crew
get together on the mix. A truly international effort it is, too, with Ouhnine &
musicians captured in Africa, Laswell in Noo Joisey (USA) and the whole thing
glued-together in Basel, Switzerland. The ud here often arrives with a heavy
reverb, helping the sound to blend evenly with rattling darbukas and rippling
bass guitar & programmed grooves. Dubbed-out vocals and swirling strings provide
a lush accompaniment to the rootsy rhythms and the whole stretches across
cultural and continental boundaries with ease and utter grace.

The pace of most tunes here follows Arabic lines (many of the tunes have
traditional roots), running at a stately mid-pace or slightly slower, meaning
that the appeal will mainly go towards the ‘ambient’ market, though there’s
enough here to drag a devotee to their feet in swaying tribute to the glorious
sounds which abound. There are no clear stand-out tunes, the entire 14-track set
weighs in around 63 minutes and the simply-packaged disc reveals nice artwork,
though with little information beyond names of musicians and technicians.