Tráfico (Crammed Discs/Ryko, 2006)
I had never heard of the Antwerp based Think of One until now, but the globe-trotting sextet might just be Belgium’s answer to France’s Lo’Jo. Think of
One’s biography sounds a lot like Lo’Jo‘s history, but on a smaller scale. In fact, it surprises me that Lo’Jo isn’t mentioned once in the band’s biography and I wonder if any other world music journalists have even noticed the striking similarities between the 2 sextets.
Similar to Lo’Jo, who condensed over 300 musicians and 20 plus years into the sextet that tours and records these days, Think of One started out as a 20 musician collective and five years later, and a couple of name changes, condensed to a sextet that involves itself with multicultural music exchanges while traveling its wares near and far. While Think of One hasn’t produced a Festival au desert, the musicians have extended hospitality and good will to cultures marginalized in a right-wing Belgium, according to the notes on the Crammed Discs web site.
And as a journalist from the UK publication, fRoots cited, “it’s like having an entire festival in your living room,” or your town–via the collective’s famous mobile stage truck. Certainly I can see the festival connection, a sort of mini WOMAD with good spirits. Six Belgian musicians, led by David Bovèe, (guitars vocals, keyboards, travel around the world and hook up with Inuit, Brazilian, Moroccan musicians and whoever else strikes their fancy.
On Tráfico, Think of One traveled to Recife in northeastern Brazil and teamed up with 66-year old vocalist, Dona Cila do Coco, percussionist Carranca, as well as, percussionist/vocalists Cris Nolasco and Ganga Barreto. But as also mentioned on the Crammed Discs site, this is not a Brazilian music album. It’s time to create a new genre and the title of this genre is up for grabs.
You will find a menagerie of musical influences where various genres and traditions collide, creating a multi-cultural experience that other groups have only touched upon thus far. However, there is a downside to all of this experimentation and that is the group does spread itself too thin at times and the music can get a bit noisy in spots. There is just too much sonic wizardry happening here that interferes with some gorgeous chord progressions, lush vocals and natural polyphonic rhythms.
But I don’t wish to be downbeat on a sunny day so I will mention the songs that do work. The opener Essa Mesa falls into the Euro-pop category and supports crazy horns and polyphonic beats. Tirar Onda also brings in those shimmering horns with hearty call & response vocals, compliments of the Brazilian musicians. The title track brings in a reggae beat and is sung in French, Flor D’ Àgua falls too heavily into the electronic genre, but provides lush vocals sung in Portuguese and wonderful chord progressions. I especially enjoy the soaring chorus. You will also find vocals sung in Flemish throughout the CD
which is an added bonus for those of us not familiar with the language.
Feira De Mangaio features Tom Waits-esque guitar, (resembles Latin-style guitar performed by Marc Ribot), polyphonic rhythms, showy horns and beautiful vocals. This song changes its directions a few times, but never loses its footing. Think of One is nothing short of ambitious, but I could do without the programmed drums and electronic groovy-ness, (a word not in my dictionary), that sometimes clash with traditional sounds.
I like some of the musical ideas explored here and the adventurous spirit of multiculturalism, but I would need to be wooed by something more acoustic, to take this band to heart. However, the musicians’ hearts are in the right place and it will be interesting to see where the road of life leads them. In the meantime, keep an eye out for Think of One’s mobile truck coming to your town.
(Which is a much greater prospect than the beat-up school bus full of musicians that pulled up to the house where I lived when I was 22. I had forgotten about that amusing, but annoying incident until Tráfico appeared in my mailbox and sent me flying back through time 20 years. Oh, well, c’est la vie).
This review was written in good humor. Normally I do not review music with electronica elements, but I am making an exception in this case because this CD has a lot of heart and the group has potential to contribute beautiful cultural exchanges in the world–something we sorely need.