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Music Reviews

Screaming Females - Castle Talk
»Screaming Females
Castle Talk
Don Giovanni
Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross - The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
»Trent Reznor & Atticus Ross
The Social Network [Original Soundtrack]
The Null Corporation
Deerhunter - Halcyon Digest
Halcyon Digest
No Age - Everything in Between
»No Age
Everything in Between
Sub Pop
Robyn - Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
Body Talk Pt. 1/ Body Talk Pt. 2
The Walkmen - Lisbon
»The Walkmen
Fat Possum
Various Artists
Sleeping in the Market
Latitude Records

Rating: 6.5/10 ?

May 20, 2005
Sleeping in the Market is more of a documentary than an album. This disc compiles field recordings from Yayehe and Mehari Simon's trip to Ethiopia in 2001. The Simons were among the 10,000 Ethiopian Jews airlifted to Israel 20 years ago, making this recording the soundtrack to their quest to rediscover their ethnic heritage.

The record begins with a jolt: "Laluyeah" is a mish-mash of lyrics from Azmre songs of yearning, delivered a cappella by a nine year-old girl. The contrast between the title word's throaty "u" sound and the girl's trilling high notes is disconcerting, and the song plays it up as much as possible, making for an arresting listen. The disjunction between the breaths and pauses that seem to be the child's slips into bashful self-awareness, and the bleating tonalities, serves as a means of continually associating the song with the singer and then disembodying the voice.

Other contributions from children stand as the rest of the album's high points, though none of them prove as engaging and visceral as "Laluyeah." "Demam Era Dema" and "Ney, Ney, Ney" capture the same vocalist and two young teenagers improvising, complete with percussion. A fourteen year-old boy offers up "Bale Ageru," a popular song rife with melodic tension. His more mature voice allows him to perform with more precision than the girls, but it also detracts from his spontaneity.

Outside of these tracks, however, the compilation begins to lose the plot. "Berewoo Taha Taha," a peasant's praise song to the bull, and "Endiaw Mela Mela," an accordion-based song performed in a tea house, suffer from a litany of distractions and expose the album's key problem: Simon's recordings capture the moment's every sound.

While you could get romantic and draw attention to the fact that the background noise makes the songs truly spring to life, the music is often eclipsed rather than augmented by its surroundings. Simon's artists have literally become voices in a crowd, and while this fact may offer commentary on the marginalization of the disabled, impoverished and young performers he represents, it leaves the impression that the album is actually one part of a larger package. Accompanying film footage, extensive text, or a photo essay would likely make this album a fuller artistic statement. Rather than being about the music, Sleeping in the Market tells the story of the society in which its music exists, and its worth to the listener rests in whether he or she finds this to be reason enough to listen.

Reviewed by Phillip Buchan
A one-time music director at WUOG in Athens, Phillip is into college radio, literature, writing, buying records, going to shows, talking to friends, learning -- pretty much the same stuff that all of us priveledged, (pseudo?)intellectual Americans are into.

See other reviews by Phillip Buchan



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