Review: Here's something rather unusual: a reissue of two tracks from experimental New Zealand outfit From Scratch's 1983 12" 3 Pieces From Gung Ho 1,2,3D, plus a trio of contemporary translations. On the A-side of record one you'll find two of From Scratch's eccentric originals, which were created using "tuned PVC pipes, drums, chimes" and "whizzer drone" (nope, we've no idea either). Fundamentally, these are loose, languid, tribal-inspired percussion works created using custom-made instruments. It's perhaps fitting that one of the standout interpretations comes from percussion-obsessed, polyrhythmic techno specialist Don't DJ. His epic, hypnotic and trippy version is joined by a woozy cover from Japan's Goat and a drowsy, heavily electronic, ambient influenced translation by the Utena Kobayashi Group.
Review: By 1988, South African producer "Om" Alex Khaoli had left his Afro-rock and Afro-soul past behind and was focused on his pioneering, synths-and-drum-machines-laden "bubblegum" project, Umoja. It was at this point that the ever-changing collective released 707, a mini-album whose four tracks all reached number one on the South African pop charts. As this Awesome Tapes From Africa reissue proves, it remains a fine set. We're particularly enjoying the bold synth riffs, elastic bass and breezy vocals of "Take Me High" and Fairlight-driven synth-pop wooziness of "Special Night", though eccentric opener "Money Money (Bananas)" - the set's most obviously South African sounding tune - is also brilliant.
Review: Since its' release in 1978 on Nigeria's Clover Sound, Mary Afi Usuah's African Woman has been widely regarded as one of the strongest Afro-soul albums of the period. Interestingly, the sound showcased on the set - which here gets a first ever release on CD - draws on South African and American influences as much as Nigerian ones. This is particularly evident on the urgent Afro-funk of "What's The Woman To Do", the brilliant title track, and the low-slung, Meters-ish swing of "Tenkim Kpoho". One of the most impressive aspects of the album is its' mixture of floor-slayers and slower groovers, with the reggae-influenced "Our Generation (Ode To Our Nation)" also impressing.