#017 – Aqsak Maboul

#017- Aqsak Maboul

[Note: This band is usually known as Aksak Maboul, but the spelling has varied on occasions; for the purposes of this blog I’m going with the spelling on the NWW list]

Album: Onze Danses Pour Combattre la Migraine (1977)

Aksak Maboul on Wikipedia

Aksak Maboul on Spotify

Most guides to the NWW list direct you to Aksak Maboul’s second album Un Peu de l’Ame des Bandits, and with good reason; it’s a masterpiece of Rock In Opposition, and one of the most essential and enduring albums to ever emerge from the movement. However, I’d like to take a look at Aksak’s debut album, a very different and much subtler affair than the dense, dissonant avant-rock of Bandits. At this stage Aksak Maboul was a trio of Belgian musicians led by composer and multi-instrumentalist Marc Hollander.

The album title suggests that the music consists of a series of dances and, perhaps surprisingly, it actually does! Though the rhythms are often tricky or prone to awkward shifts, much of the music has a strong, danceable beat to it. From off-kilter waltzes to tribal percussion, every track exudes a gleeful rhythmic energy which could, at least in principle, be danced to. The closest comparison in this regard is probably Fred Frith’s Gravity, another album which melds discordant rock and jazz textures with traditonal dance rhythms. Whilst we’re making comparsions, I was also struck by the number of passages which are reminiscent of so-called Canterbury bands like Hatfield and the North and National Health. This album would make an ideal point of entry into RIO for fans of those groups.

Between the three musicians (and a few guests here and there), a wide array of instruments are utilised to bring these eccentric, playful compositions to life. Keyboards, saxophone, accordion, guitar, violin, xylophone, clarient, bass guitar, etc. are all fused delicately into intricate, quirky tunes and dazzling improvisations, all of which seemingly exist beyond any definable genre (though they do skirt close to musical pastiche once or twice). The whole thing is wonderfully homogeneous; a natural fusion of seemingly disparate styles, influences and sounds rather than a contrived exercise in genre-splicing.

This odd, charming album makes is a superb introduction into the often daunting world of Rock In Opposition, and deserves just as much recognition as its noisier (but equally brilliant) sibling.

Freak Factor: 7/10

Replayability: 8/10

Overall score: 9/10


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