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Published: 2008/05/01
by Reanna Feinberg

Toubab Krewe, The Mobius, Ashland, OR- 4/13

Toubab Krewe pulls notes like individual cacti needles from the skin, imprinting song in my arms sent spinning where this hypnotic sound reads like brail over the ridges that remain from the instruments’ firm twang. The high-pitched song of cartoon Chinese dragons, eerie, beautiful and old, falls off the kora and kamelengoni like lost eyelashes. Teal Brown, playing the drumset, and Luke Quaranta, with an array of rhythm tools, line the back of the stage sweating out whole bodies from the intensity and pure joy emanating off their limbs.

The electric bass and guitar look like standard instruments, but sound very different. Drew Heller’s technique springs music forth from the strings, inviting it to the surface with clear intentional pings and waves that reverberate in whiny drawls echoing the deep cavern heart of each clear note. 21 strings spread out from the long center arm of the kora (a West African harp-loot) like slightly parted curtains. Held in Justin’s lap, he plays it with his thumbs and index fingers. Grasping two wooden handholds with his other fingers, he plucks intricate beats out of this jungle harp. His fingers blur into a wave of flesh over the many strings. Riding the momentum, his hands shoot vertical along the strings creating a slide guitar effect that plays the instrument like a squeaky-clean glass bowl.

They change the style and sound into new songs at least three times within each song. A cool jive twist song bubbles into hard heavy metal firm strums on the guitar paired with raw percussion power. The song easily lands in a hybrid flow of the two styles no longer recognizable by either as a lineage of their musical loins. They play music like events in the timeline of a dream: random pieces of your life, unconnected, strew together into a family dinner that looks out onto the mountains where you grew up, but the chairs are the cubby desks where you kept your pencil sharpeners and the door’s upside down and Brad Pitt’s serving the food, but it all seems normal enough and you wake up knowing what you’re going to eat for dinner.

A sweet gentle tune paints the soundtrack for flower petals floating in Japanese gardens then hiccups into Caribbean light wave, leprechaun sprite jives that I can fly to. A completely out-of-place truck stop style “Big Jim,” intro leads into flowing, climbing chords that sweep over the guitar and bass in a steady loft layered atop hard, fast percussion. High-energy bluegrass gittup-n-go inspires my calves to circle off my knees in a spinning pendulum motion, wider and faster, attempting to shake free of the joint. I’ve never seen my legs move like this, but my knees (who’d believed they could only move in two directions) are so delighted with this new action I dare not interrupt. Shifting from fast, cupped momentum on the djembe to stepping shakers sharply against solid air, to playing a large textured sea cucumber shaped block (beating the hell out of the thing) Luke churns with the fluxing tempo.

A classical rock guitar riff leads in, adding to the expansive variety of this African inspired, Southern music. I pull up and pause on tiptoes, extended and perched to dive into this playful sound. Streaks of music paint over me carving space to the volt of this tumultuous wave. Running through my veins now, it pours through me like glaciers just now melted and anxious to get out, from every limb, fast, to paint the walls in this joy.

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