Squeezed out at the end of a whirlwind year, A Giant Leap delivers on its title by significantly advancing the African-electronic template that saw Culoe plucked out of the Red Bull Music Academy in the first place, delivering on previous promise while hinting at future progression. Whereas tunes on the earlier two EPs year relied largely on shifting layers of tribal drums, A Giant Leap adds an impressive array of vocalists into this mix CD of original productions, including the renowned Mail singer Salif Keita. Across the LP's front half, the rhythms barely change. Together with sustained, ethereal chords, the drums provide a driving pulse for a gorgeously orchestrated tide of overlapping vocal lines, a mixture of chants and calls whose joyous, ecstatic energy fall somewhere between a church choir performance and a party under the stars.
Two remixes appear in the middle, but you'll have to follow the tracklisting closely to figure out which ones they are, as they've been effortlessly woven into Culoe's tribal tapestry. Culoe's dub version of a tune by Soundiata's Rebels is carried by a trebly guitar-scratch riff reminiscent of '60s highlife and an elongated synth line, while sound effects skitter in the background. These elements blend without warning into a remake of "Let Me Go" by Reggie Dokes, stretched out by Culoe into a breathless, expansive plateau. The choir melody sung in the succeeding "Neighbour" so neatly responds to the chanted chorus of "Let Me Go" that it gives the feeling of a live, improvised medley. This is Culoe is at his strongest, infusing club music with the unpredictable vibrance of folk performance.
As a whole, A Giant Leap takes the concept of a seamlessly-mixed LP to new heights—it's like a suite, an epic-scaled sound-world that entrances with graceful, gentle transitions between new tracks, remixes and previous EP material. There aren't marked differences between the songs, just subtle gradations over a long period of time, which gives the record a quite organic, elemental feel, as if you're watching the movements of shadows on the plain made as the sun marches across an open sky. This also means that if you do a needle drop somewhere in the middle, any particular tune will convey the sound of the whole record fairly easily. The experience of this sound, however, is best done as Culoe intended—from start to finish, in an immersive exploration of variations on a theme.
Mon / 28 Dec 2009
01. Amasiko feat. Shana
02. Gwebindlala feat. Thandiswa Mazwai
03. Webaba feat. Busi Mhlongo
04. Soundiata's Rebels - Tamboula (Culoe De Song KaMnguni Dub)
05. Reggie Dokes - Let Me Go (Culoe De Song Zulu Spirit Mix)
06. The Neigbour feat. Salif Keita & Jimmy Dludlu
07. The Fallen Siren
08. Super Afro
09. The Dragon's End feat. Fatima
10. The Bright Forest