Good festival bands convert listeners into fans. Some even inspire amateur musicians in the audience to quit their day jobs and go on tour. Probably, Treacherous Orchestra inspires young Scottish men to wear black vests and get tattoos, but also, this brawny superband fathered my World Fusion playlist.
…Not exclusively, of course. Daniel Steinberg (Hillbillies From Mars) turned me on to Treacherous Orchestra, so he can also be blamed for my latest addiction. This was back in the days (close to a year ago) when some grumpy Redditor described world music as ear-candy for restless housewives, and I thought to myself “Great! If other housewives listen to my favorite music, I would love to meet them!” But, of course, I understood the grump’s complaint, and I also realized that he had never listened to my playlist. Then one old school guitarist, who did listen, remarked with disgust, “How can you even call this music? It’s just a bunch of ideas.”
Fortunately, today’s general populace is starting to understand what world fusion is/isn’t (compared with New Age and the older genre called world music). New artists emerging every week are building momentum with their genre-bending twists on traditional ethnic music. Still you’ll notice good old Treacherous Orchestra hovering at the top of my playlist. That’s not only because they were my First Love. It’s because in my humble opinion: 1. Their music is stupendous, and 2. Their track “Numbers” magnificently announces, “Here’s what I believe world fusion is, or maybe ought to be.” Wikipedia seems to concur, because its latest definition embraces everything on my playlist: World Fusion playlist.
Now, if you’re seeking a fancy micro-analysis of Treacherous Orchestra’s melodic hooks and mathematical phrasing, you’ll need to consult a Certified Music Major. I’ve got just enough book knowledge to be dangerous. I can only differentiate 6/8 from 3/4 by humming, and I hate talking out my rear end. So my evaluations are purely based on intuition. The way it happened with Treacherous Orchestra was like this: I had an epiphany. Within seconds of hearing Numbers, I felt whisked out of my chair to a place that wasn’t Scotland (the band’s homeland) or even outer space, but rather, a place surpassing all spoken language.
Some ethnic fusion is really just a mishmash, like potstickers and tacos in the same buffet with quiche; Likewise, some world music has all the pizzaz of mild Mexican chili; But not Treacherous Orchestra. Their music seduced me like spicy watermelon gazpacho (exotic, intense and deeply satisfying). My cheeks flushed. Give me another round of whatever that is!
In a frenzy of excitement, I asked Daniel Steinberg for more recommendations, and surfed Spotify, until I found myself creating a playlist like no other. This giant world fusion collection will always be a work-in-progress, continually broadening one cohesive journey, like a series of themed-rooms linked together by curious passages. Curating the playlist feels like creating a global Concept Album.
So, for the likes of you, I’m about to start publishing spotlight reviews. They will feature some bands already on the playlist, plus many new discoveries. If you enjoy what you hear, please come again!
If you are going to visit the playlist now, please don’t hit Shuffle Play (the arrow), or you will just hear chaos rather than a journey. Start at the top, but then notice as you go down that there are many good places to begin your next journey.
Of course you will hear Numbers first. Prepare yourself by imagining the cream of Scotland: Nearly a dozen sensational folk musicians, mostly shrink-wrapped in black, with tattoos exposed, hairy from birth, reeking of pheromones (or maybe Old Spice), blowing, squeezing and beating every manner of finicky Celtic instrument as casually as jocks dribbling basketballs. These youngsters make their profession look easy. Yet nobody could mistake Treacherous Orchestra for a jam band. This big-rig clearly has an expert driver. So marvel at the band’s exquisite precision. Analyze how its melodic phrasing shifts mathematically, within a fixed time signature. Press Repeat, and then let yourself stop thinking…