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Published: 2005/07/07
by Randy Ray

Skin – Mecca Bodega

Harmonized Records 021

I made a random knee-jerk comment to a friend recently that an album or, to use the parlance of the times, a CD, should be heard from beginning to end, the whole being greater than the sum of its parts. Well, that isn't always true. Nowadays, the joys of an iPod can create a vast symphony of eternal shuffle plays that weave new sonic masterpieces on a daily basis. The wonders of The Great Ear Candy Unknown can provide quite an audio sensation even to the jaded listener. Spinning a new series of material and transferring it to a friend's file can also deliver treasures.

Mecca Bodega’s Skin is an example of the pre-iPod days, the centuries when music was played for religious, magical reasons, when rhythm was young, primal and percussive. Instruments as varied as trap kits, dumbers, beer kegs, talking drums, lead djembes, tablas, didgeridoo and the hammered dulcimer are used to great effect to build one unified motif of expression. From the opening "Ravine" to the closing "Doko," Mecca Bodega utilizes every type of acoustic instrument — ancient or otherwise — to provoke wild shamanistic sermons about primitive beats exported into the 21st century.

What makes the CD work is its seamless flow down 55 minutes of visual river like the flipside of Captain Willard's dark journey in Apocalypse Now! The music is mysterious like the soundtrack that Mickey Hart conjured up with several of his gifted musical friends and percussionists; but it doesn't have that evil dimension that the Rhythm Devils explored. This music seems more akin to white magic — revealing the portion of the soul that needs healing, rather than attacking weak points through fear.

I don't know. That sounds very Star Wars. I guess what I’m trying to say is that, while Mecca Bodega attempts to awaken life in the forest and illuminate the shady textures, they never lose sight of the exit out of the vast, incomprehensible decibel jungle. Beats are introduced, elaborated upon and repeated until a new melody is featured on yet another instrument. By far, the CD’s best attribute is its dichotomy of the French horn and numerous percussion instruments, plus Paul Mueller, on hammered dulcimer, carefully gliding down a narrow path to reveal a wide open space midway through the trip.

"Anytime is a Good Time" and the sublime tonal harmony of "Mountain" are great examples of this peaceful ride down a calm body of water. Not to get too Mickey Hart-esoteric here, but the multiple instrument mixtures makes one wonder how certain types mate up in the grand forest of sounds. Then again, a tree is paper and pencil to me; a home to anothertheir base, their shelter. Ahhh…the perils of civilization. I'm a sucker for trance-lock circular percussion patterns and Skin delivers that sweet, head banging, body-shaking variety, too – namely: the opening rager, "Ravine" and "Kegger" where the main riff is slammed out on a beer keg by Paul’s brother, Marc Mueller. Beer kegs, French horns and Didjeridoos a brilliant iPod-like shuffle play of instruments producing a wonderful bedrock of linear Skin pathos.

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