Pods and Ends

Afro Celt Sound System

Pod (Real World 7243 597526 0 0, 2004)

Afro Celt Sound System were and are trailblazers in the ethno-techno movement that combines global sounds with modern technology. The results of such combining vary considerably as far as the success of the end result goes, but the Afro Celt lads have managed to maintain consistently high quality and inspired blending over the course of four albums.

Many key tracks from those four are remixed on Pod (their last album was called Seed), having practically their every nuance stretched to the hilt and emerging with musical integrity (over mere technical wizardry) intact. The band’s strengths–including the melancholy vocals of Iarla O LionĂ¡ird, their ability to make organic and computerized rhythms peacefully coexist and their use of cultural sources other than those implied by their name–are enhanced in these versions.

Though a few of the recreations are by the band’s own masterminds Simon Emmerson and James McNally, some guests with presumably less vested interest do good turns also. The input of someone named Mass figures into the brightness with which “Whirly 3” gives prominence to layers of acoustic instruments as well as the alternately serene and menacing feel of “Eireann.”

Other tweakers like Rollo and Sister Bliss, Bipolar and DJ Toshio emphasize such components as simple rhythmic solidity, the emotional depth of certain sung passages, abruptly explosive sound bursts or swelling string textures. It’s intense, thrilling stuff, conjuring up any number of moods to go with the inherent dancing and trancing of the originals. Only the remix of “When You’re Falling” fails, dissecting the beat to nearly skeletal remains and selling short Peter Gabriel’s lead vocal. Skip that one and groove liberally to the rest. Also, you get a second disc, a DVD with a couple of music videos and concert footage showing that the Afro Celts deliver in the visuals department as well.

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Author: Tom Orr

Tom Orr is a California-based writer whose talent and mental stability are of an equally questionable nature. His hobbies include ignoring trends, striking dramatic poses in front of his ever-tolerant wife and watching helplessly as his kids surpass him in all desirable traits.