“The Six Degrees Travel Series is dedicated to bringing you the best in traditional and contemporary musical excursions from around the world,” read the notes to the label’s third annual overview of world electronic music. “We are particularly interested in genre-bending hybrids that include a variety of musical styles as well as a mix of the ancient and the modern.”
‘03 documents the cutting edge of ethnic electronic music from such label favorites as MIDIval PunditZ, a techno production team from New Delhi which gives strong props to traditional Indian instrumentation and ragas; Karsh Kale, an expert at traditional Indian instruments and vocals and also a turntable-scratchin’, tape-loopin’ DJ; and even a track by Qwii Music Arts’ Trust Khoi San Music (which consists of bushmen of the Kalahari desert), all sculpted anew by cutting edge remix producers.
Bobi Céspedes’ “Rezos” demonstrates the compilation’s credo, as what sounds like chants from an ancient liturgy lead into and then fold back upon a rock steady, taffy-thick modern dub beat. So does the PunditZ’ “Dark Escape,” which builds upon traditional Indian tabla to club out a thumping modern beat. The description of Bob Holroyd’s “Rafiki” as the “Rise Ashen Future-Tribal Mix” is also quite telling, as it combines traditional tribal chants in rhythm with twittering electronica, roiling drumrolls and bass figures. “Stiff Jazz” by dZihan & Kamien mixes jazz, Latin, and Middle Eastern music with electronic beats; Rodney Hunter & Richard Dorfmeister remix it into a techno-tribal landscape pierced by a rhythm guitar hook that comes in sharp on the right beat but then sort of just hangs in the air and drifts away in a wonderful technique of production.
“Izgrala” by Lumin features the unmistakable voice of Irina Mikhailova from Kazakhstan on a piece that combines Eastern European vocal tradition with traditional Middle Eastern music and modern electronica. The emotional weight behind the Middle Eastern strings and percussion seem made even more powerfully emotive by the mechanistic backdrop and Mikhailova’s voice, especially when multi-tracked and harmonizing with herself in lower keys instead of higher (like Madonna), is quite beautiful.
‘03 ends powerfully. Kale uses tablas, squealing hooks, and the Madras Chamber Orchestra as building blocks for bone-crunching beats in “GK2.” “Xlao Tshao” by Bushmen of the Kalahari desert, remixed by Holroyd, tumbles and whirls with traditional chants, Caribbean island percussion, and Afro-pop guitars and rhythms, dancing arm-in-arm toward the horizon under a brightly starlit veldt. These tracks, like others, present the sound of the ancient musical world giving birth to the modern.
The initial pressing of ‘03 also includes a separate bonus disc of seven Six Degrees tracks never before available on CD.