Subtropic Arkestra – The Reason Why Vol. 3
(Headspin Recordings: Head 0242 CD review by Nick Davies)
The Reason Why Vol. 3 is the final album in a trilogy by the Subtropic Arkestra. The group did not want to become known as a ‘covers band’ and therefore decided to limit this offering to three records. Going forward, they plan on writing and releasing new material. Trumpeter Goran Kajfes states: “It has been an incredibly rewarding experience for the band’s sound and development, but now it’s time to look forward and see what’s next for the Subtropic Arkestra.”
As in the previous two volumes, the songs on this seven-track album are carefully selected and conveyed as the band’s own interpretation, not direct covers of the originals. Styles vary greatly, from French-influenced pieces to a score from Ethiopian keyboard player Hailu Mergia – a real eclectic mix!
Track one, the French sounding Ibakish Tarekigne, written by Mergia and reminiscent of 1960s’ lounge music, is set up by the driving guitar of Robert Ostlund and taken forward by the brass section. It is an upbeat, funky piece and, although you still get that ’60s feel, it has been updated to be inherently modern.
This theme continues throughout the album, fully delivering on obscurity, something only a real audio-head may have heard of. Le Monde Avait 5 Ans was originally released by French electronic musician, Bernard Fevre. Fevre, in 1977, features the synthesizer. The Subtropic Arkestra version sees Jesper Nodenstrom setting the rhythm on the keys, followed by Jesper Berthling on the bass. The bass drives the beat although the band cleverly uses loops to add emphasis and to bring the track up to date. This is not a copy of the original but a tribute to Fevre’s original work, cinematically enhanced by the use of modern technology.
The rest of the album follows a very similar pattern: eclectic rhythms transcribed and delivered in their own unique style. There is music from Panda Bear, an American experimental pop band, and Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou, a Benin-based orchestra. An exciting mix of modern and old, the common factor is that all the original tracks are not very well known. To say the album is an easy listen would be misleading as, in places, it is quite hard on the ear. What it is, however, is an offering that grows on the listener.
Overall, a great release of differing musical styles that may take a bit of getting used to but pure gold for avant-garde fans. It draws to a close this phase in the life of the Subtropic Arkestra. What comes next? Only time will tell if their original music is as good as their covers but I am sure it will be surprising and of a high standard.