Monday, April 11, 2011

17 Pygmies - Jedda by the Sea (1984)

This is a real subtle gem here that takes a few listens to grow on you. As a preface, I saw Savage Republic play live at the Echo in LA as part of a Part Time Punks festival, and they were by far the most engrossing act there (moreso even than Wire). I have this visceral memory of the shirtless drummer pounding away at this huge garbage can with these gargantuan percussion mallets. Taking a step away from the dark, aggressiveness of Savage Republic’s unrelenting and awesome clamoring, Jackson Del Rey of the band decided to start a side project of experimental and often minimal post punk/soft pop music. At times sounding like gothic classical improv with modern pop underpinnings and at others like a neoteric gypsy opera, it carries quite a range of styles. Evoking subtle atmospheres that are neither dark nor light in tone, 17 Pygmies had a unique sound going with a certain purity and humbleness in their endeavors. Then there’s tracks like “Tropical Grasslands” which recall the tribalism of Savage Republic’s drum circle jungle rock (albeit much lighter). But aside from that singular track, there aren’t many similarities between the two bands. 17 Gypsies continued making music throughout the 80’s and 90’s and foresaw many changes in form and function throughout the years.

After almost 30 years, they continue to make music and continue to experiment with different styles to this day. On January 1, 2011, CII: Second Son was released, part two in a three part series based on the original short science fiction piece “Celestina.” Many of their albums can be found on Itunes and their newer releases can be obtained through the Trakwerx record label if you like what you hear - and if you have an open ear, I'm sure you will.

Rating: 8/10


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