1980, Music

Un peu de l’âme des bandits (1980) by Aqsak Maboul

Somehow, despite being familiar with the work of two of the guests on this record, and having listened to at least a couple Rock in Opposition albums, I had never heard of this band before. How is that possible?

The answer is because they’re Belgian, I think. Anyway:

Aqsak Maboul (aka Aksak Maboul) play a particularly vigourous and lively form of avant garde rock music, with influences from free jazz and world music, among other things. In fact, some of the tracks could pass as “world music” or “free jazz” if they weren’t on an album full of other things which could not pass as that kind of music.

When there are vocals they are often unconventional, such as the squeaks on the opening cover of a Bo Diddley song. (I use the term “squeak” as a placeholder for a better word that I can’t come up with right now.) Or they are conversations or gang vocals.

And music is basically never dull, which is one thing Rock in Opposition usually has going for it over other forms of avant garde music – this is not academic music, this is a good time full of crazy ideas with a strong emphasis on rhythm.

I think the one clear criticism has to do with sequencing, or possibly even just the net being too wide. The music just does not “flow” (to parrot a word from a professional review of this record). That may be deliberate but it makes it harder to get into what is already a record which is hard to get into for most people. There are tracks on this record that sound like they could be from a different band altogether – which is hard to believe – and the way they are sequenced feels off.

But, on the whole, this is fun and creative avant garde music, which manages to bridge the gap between high and low culture. And most avant garde music is not fun.


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