Current Issue Details

Buy Current Issue

Reviews > CDs

Published: 2002/05/22
by Jeff Perlman

Mondo Head – KODO

Red Ink 56111

Japanese drum corps, throat singing, drums and
percussionists from around the world, flutes, found
sounds, unusual vocals, Mickey Hart… what's there not
to like on KODO's Mondo Head? Indeed.

This album seamlessly weaves together a variety of disparate
elements to create a thoroughly enjoyable and engrossing whole.
Perhaps some of the album's intimacy can be traced to the
engineering — it was recorded and mixed in 5.1
surround sound and consequently, even in stereo, has
remarkable depth, creating a huge sonic space. (An
SACD version is available for those with the
capability to hear it as fully intended). But, without
stellar performances, the engineering would mean
nothing, and the album contains these in abundance.

KODO themselves have never before made an album like
this, though they have made many albums. A group of
thirteen traditional Japanese percussionists – a taiko – they serve as the foundation of the album, though they
aren't always the feature. While vocalists and
instrumentalists from the world play and sing over and
above them, KODO – with their booming, dense rhythms – give the album its drive and its substance. These
rhythms are the glue binding all of the many sounds
together. They are also wholly engaging. I found
myself uncontrollably tapping and banging along upon
the first listening (something I try to avoid when
attempting to evaluate other peoples' work) and
haven't been able to control the urge any better on
subsequent listenings.

No English words are spoken or sung. And thankfully
so, because, if the liners are any indication,
comprehensible lyrics would be some degenerate form of
pan-spiritual psychobabble. As it is, the vocals are
remarkable for their sheer breadth of sound: yelps,
yics, gravelly throat singing, Asian chants, African a
cappella, ethereal Middle Eastern melodies — all with
KODO, plus other world percussionists including Zakir
Hussein, Airto Moreira, Giovanni Hidalgo, Michael
Hinton, and Mickey Hart, providing an infectious drum
groove backbone.

I should probably mention that my sister was none too
impressed when I had this album playing in the car.
There was something about the vocals that she didn't
like. "Too new agey," she said. Well, the vocals are
certainly non-Western, perhaps a bit high and nasal to
one accustomed only to Dave Matthews, Britney Spears,
and the like, but not distasteful. Not to me anyway,
and I'm the one writing the review. No, for me, this is a deliciously
grooving album, and
far too interesting and edgy to fall in any new age

Show 0 Comments