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Gogol Bordello – Live From Axis Mundi

I almost always sketch when I’m in a live gig. It’s a strange compulsion and it’s a fun way to enjoy the music but it’s crazy when the band has a fun stage presence.

After seeing Live From Axis Mundi, I really want to sketch Gogol Bordello that badly. It’s got a musical duel between a violin and an accordion! How can you go wrong with that?!

This live best-of-so-far compilation is Eugene Hütz and co at their primal best in their natural environment. I first tasted of their brand of gypsy punk, hearing a live version of “Start Wearing Purple” over the wireless in a flat without furniture in London town and I was hooked immediately. Live is where they have most manic power and this CD/DVD set certainly delivers.

The CD has the BBC recorded sessions and miscellaneous demos but the highlight is definitely the DVD. That fun, energetic sound gains an extra perspective with visuals of the concert at Axis Mundi. The band’s stage presence is awesome from Hütz’s charisma to everyone moving around and the playful camaraderie between band members. Even the stage guy who constantly pops up to pick up fallen mics and untangle cables deserves a mention.

Highlights include “Wonderlust King”, “American Wedding” and “Forces of Victory”. My favourite scene would have to be any time violinist Sergey Ryabtsev would square-off with accordion player Yuri Lemeshev. There’s my violin/accordion craving right there and I didn’t even know I had one.

If that’s not enough Gogol Bordello fix, the dvd also has extra tracks, music videos and chronicles featuring making-of footage.

If it wasn’t obvious enough, I really enjoyed this album. It fills me with a good kind of manic craziness and it’ll have to do until I get to see the band live one day.

The Optimen – “Fire Fighters” single

The first time I heard of the Optimen was in the Valley Fiesta two months ago and I certainly had fun sketching them while they were playing. The five piece were fun live and I made a note to look out for them in future. Now, listening to their latest single from their forthcoming “The Out of Money Experience”, I’m definitely in attention.

“Fire Fighters” has all necessary ingredients needed by a single to maximise attention and also ingrain itself into the listener’s brain. It’s catchy, solid and fires all the toe-tapping inclinations. I liked the b-side “Always” even more: the beats, grooves and cuts combined with relatable lyrics are both infectious and uplifting.

I’m glad to add The Optimen to my list of quality local hip-hop acts out there and can’t wait to hear what else they have in store. This single makes me want to draw like a crazy person and that’s great!

Afro Dizzi Act – Peace Love & Unity

I can’t believe these guys have been going for ten years and I’ve only heard of them now. Four years of live music and two hundred-ish bands later and Peace Love & Unity is my first taste of Afro Dizzi Act. Incidentally, the meal’s wonderful and I want more, please!

This album satisfies all my jazzy, funk-infused afro-beat cravings without all the fancy-schmancy electronic filling (which I also like) that’s prevalent these days. I just like to hear/see actual instruments being played professionally and solidly which comes from going to lots of live gigs. It also spurs me to draw better as well.

The inclusion of Jali Buba Kuyateh on Kora and vocals really lifts the band up and adds extra spice to their overall sound. “Jardadinke”, “All Comes Back To You” and my personal fave, “Jarabee” exemplifies this wonderful union of different musical stylings.

From the laid-back reggae of “The Pilgrim Returns” to smooth build-up of “Lady”, I just enjoyed listening to everything in this album. It’s cool and it’s relaxing and I don’t relax easily but had no problems getting into the mindset. Despite such a late start, I’m won over with this album and now have a great urge to see these guys live. A solid, satisfying and chilling sixty minutes of my life well spent.

– Emmanuel Hernaez

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