Nighturns: a compilation of minimalist experimental music drawing on African folk influences and field recordings of rituals

Un Caddie Renversé dans l’Herbe, Nighturns, Germany, Cellule 75, CELL-10 CD (2022)

With a name like Caddie Renversé dans l’Herbe (translating from French into English as “a shopping trolley overturned in the grass”), you’d expect this one-man act to be a very singular entity and you’d not be far wrong: begun in 1995 by the then 19-year-old Didac P Lagarriga in Barcelona, the city where he grew up after moving there from Brazil with his family as a child, Un Caddie … was active in the Spanish experimental music scene until Lagarriga converted to Islam in his late 20s and became aware of (and subjected to) the subtle discriminations often experienced by Muslims and other outsiders in Western societies as long-term residents. Lagarriga put his musical activities on pause and concentrated on his other career as a writer, translator and journalist. In recent years he became a disciple of a marabout (a religious leader or hermit) and has been involved with the Muridiyya Sufi community in Senegal, recording chants and rituals. In 2021, Lagarriga revived Un Caddie … after his father became homeless and Lagarriga discovered that everything he had stored in his father’s former house had been lost. Un Caddie … took on a new purpose as a way of recovering what has been lost and is missed.

“Nighturns” is a compilation of short works investigating Senegalese and other western African music played on various African instruments such as mbira, kalimba, balaphon and others, with an emphasis on delivering this music in a minimalist, stripped-down style that highlights its essential nature and reveals its spiritual nature. Several tracks on this album – the first “Kalimgane” is representative of these – have a playful and lively style and manage to be very intimate and personal in spite of their sparse presentation. Field recordings and background ambience appear on “Cheikh Vibra”, an otherwise tinkly space-ambient piece. Other pieces like “Ya Rahman” can be highly atmospheric pieces, a bit slower than the more playful songs featured here, but the mystery and the way in which sounds are used to create a strange soundscape more than makes up for any losses in the act’s energy and enthusiasm. “Palene” is an early stand-out as an experimental track combining looping electronic and experimental rhythms with recordings of chants and ritual activity.

As the music progresses, it sometimes becomes a bit darker and sombre in parts but is no less hypnotic in its forms. The singing may appear to take place in some unusual environments, like a cave perhaps. What probably complicates some of the recordings here is the political situation at the time the recordings were made, and how politics might have been a background influence on some of the recordings, especially the field recordings, and the music itself. Nevertheless, most tracks here have a distinct African – North African – Middle Eastern ambience, strong on beats and rhythms, and are very subtle and refined in their minimalist presentation. Local Senegalese and other instruments combine with Western experimental music and recording techniques into a unique hybrid mix that is at once forward-looking and traditional, and can be everything (or almost everything) it wants to be. With that freedom, no wonder the music here is as energetic and exhilarating as it is!

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