Ethnic Circus

Ghazi Barakat is the German-Palestinian creator who has appeared in these cyber-folds a few times over the years, prolific fellow that he be, most often as Pharoah Chromium, though I learn today he’s also in bands Golden Showers and Stereo Total and has been recording for over 20 years now. The Pharoah Chromium thing has usually been a bit hit-or-miss for me personally, despite the Gunter Schickert connection, but I’m warming to moments of today’s whipped pastiche by Crème De Hassan. On it, Barakat throws in his paws with the USA wing in the form of Paul LaBrecque, who comes to us via Sunburned Hand Of The Man (that sprawling try-anything combo of ragamuffins). LaBrecque is more often found in continental Europe than in his native plains these days, and he may well have been in Germany long enough to rub noses with Ghazi and lay down the beats for Tricontinental Circus (INVERSIONS INV006).

11 short tracks of quite-good electronica and guitar swirls shall be thine, along with a clumsy cover collage which makes plain the album’s intention to project an ethnic, international vibe. Said vibe is conjured out of the saucepan by means of samples, I would assume, given the large number of spoken languages we hear from very far-flung parts of the globe, and the exciting cross-section of musical flavours. Unlike what we find with the heaviosity of Pharoah Chromium, there’s a much lighter touch at work here, and some the overlays and clashes of styles do cause one’s frontal lobes to break out into a mild sweat. The cross-rhythms to these beats are particularly subtle and effective, and it’s to the credit of both that they haven’t simply sampled a sambuk full of records and tapes and set them to a crappy old disco beat. It’s much more imaginative. I gather that the studio instrumentation played by the pair is guitar and synths plus a sequencer (though a Rauschpfeife, a German reed instrument, also features); they’d like us to feel the 1970s krautrock waves from their “jams”, though they have none of the muscular simplicity of La Düsseldorf, who are namechecked.

If krautrock comparisons must be made, Tricontinental Circus might be closer in spirit to Can’s Limited Edition and Unlimited Edition records, though lacking the sly humour of Holger Czukay as he collaged those “ethnological forgeries”. Crème De Hassan have made another LP for this UK label in 2017 called Technique & Rite. From 24 October 2019.