Monday, March 29, 2010

Les Baxter - Ritual of the Savage

I am listening to this, currently, with the intent of reviewing it over here, an Exotica site that i write reviews for. Marco, my editor, is extremely tolerant of posting reviews for whatever random shit i happen to be feeling passionate about that minute, so i am trying to write up some classic exotica that he is so passionate about.
I'm not so passionate about it, myself. I find it interesting, culturally and historically, but i never seem to get beyond a novelty level with the stuff. My skewed brain automatically conjures a perverse 1950s: suburbanites listening to Tiki records as they pop pills and slowly decline into
alcoholism. That being said, there are some real musical innovations being hashed out here, composers dallying with other cultures, as we slowly and falteringly felt out way out of bland, white-bread mono-culturalism. At least they were trying. I've heard it said that the interest in Island Cultures developed from GIs who had been station in Japan and Asia, and thus the idea of Hawaii, the tropical paradise was born.
Like i said, i find the idea of this style of music as a historic curiosity is endlessly fascinating, a unique peak into Cold War era America, people's neurosis and fantasies as filtered through their listening habits. You can grab a sneak peak into the bomb shelters of the American id. Also, this music was designed to be pleasant and unobtrusive. It is fun, upbeat, cocktail hour; its all tans and surf and adventure, chasing beautiful women, wearing nice seats. It is designed to make the listener to feel cosmopolitan and chic. With it. Fans of kitsch, martinis and lounge suits, will go apeshit for this record. And it is a classic, one of THE definitive exotica records, spawning hordes of clones. The song 'Quiet Village,' with its swooping strings, strident piano, and hints of percussion, has been covered more than probably any other exotica track, sometimes with whole albums devoted entirely to it. It is an institution. So those interested in influential music may also find an angle here. And it is masterfully composed, smooth and flowing as the Orinoco, fluttering like colorful plumage. It will soothe away the cares of yr day, relaxing in the hammock of yr mind. It will, no doubt, also improve yr tan, and make you more irresistible to women (don't know about men. This is primarily a bachelor's market).
F0r me, however, i like a little more vinegar in my ears. I no doubt will turn on Messiaen's 'Quartet for the End of Time,' after this, and settle into the comfortable reality of barbed wire and tears. I need discordance, i need chaos. I need burning passion and human endeavoring. I prefer actual world music to the Disney hologram simulacra, even if it means i may not speak the language or might possibly encounter malaria or headhunters. I find it less condescending and less alienating, meeting other people and cultures on their own ground. This music was never designed to be authentic, it is meant to approximate. To be safe, to not rattle the cages of the culture in which was produced, to be in no way offensive. But i've heard it said the purpose of Art is to shake things up, to shatter, a revolution of life and thought. You decide what's right for you.
Ladies and gentleman, i present...

liink removed - but still well worth hearing. If you like this kind of thing...

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