Music tends to evolve in a manner that rarely produces spontaneous creation of new styles. Rather, in the world of 21st Century pop music, new sounds are typically born from genre hybridization. Thus, we are given the gifts of disco-punk, nü-rave and metal-gaze. These stylistic mashups may not always be successful (if you throw a rap in the middle of a twee-pop song it doesn’t work, for example), but the continuous exploration into the blurring of genres can often lead to some impressive, even revolutionary music.
Karl Hector and the Malcouns take stylistic biochemistry to a breathtaking and invigorating level. With roots in both the Sahara and Germany, Karl Hector and the Malcouns combine Afrobeat, Krautrock, jazz and funk in a mixture that yields some of the most innovative and aurally stimulating music to have arrived in recorded form in some time. And given that the band’s influences are firmly entrenched in the culture of the experimental ’70s, there’s a deep and rich analog sound that bathes these mesmerizing tracks. Had I not been supplied with any information surrounding this release, I almost would have assumed it was a lost masterpiece from 30 years ago, and quite frankly, it might as well be.
“When The Sun Breaks Through” has a raw jazz-funk sound that’s equal parts Fela and Coltrane, clattering and blaring through a rugged groove. “Nyx,” meanwhile, is the first track to truly display the group’s Krautrock tendencies. With buzzing keyboards and some kickass funk guitar riffs, “Nyx” is akin to a Neu! and JB’s jam session, which I never realized was such a mind-blowing combo. “Followed Path” has a darker groove to it, touched up eerily with psychedelic organ, and the title track creeps with a haunted swagger, like electric Miles Davis in a 1970s cop show.
Given the sounds and techniques that get stirred about therein, Sahara Swing could be a genre unto itself. It’s a truly impressive feat when an album can sound vintage and truly innovative, yet this does both. Karl Hector and the Malcouns are true innovators, both visionaries and classicists in a time where neither seems to exist anymore.
Fela Kuti – Zombie
Can – Tago Mago
The Heliocentrics – Out There
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.