packshotI’m not a big fan (read: at all, unless it’s absolutely necessary) of providing background information about a particular artist or album in order to properly review it. Sometimes it is required – like, for example, when you review five albums simultaneously – but most of the time I consider it superfluous. That said, this is one of those rare times when a few details might just aid in understanding. Just based upon the band’s name and the album title it’s clear that some enlightenment is required in order to fully grasp the Orchestre Poly-Rythmo de Cotonou and its new release, Volume 2: Echos Hypnotiques.So here we go. OPRdC got its start way back in the late ‘60s in the tiny country of Benin. They rose to fame as a backing band for acts like Manu Dibango that toured across Africa, and were “capable of playing any style of music, the band moved from traditional vodoun [sic] rhythms to funk, salsa or afro-beat seamlessly” as the Analog Africa blog proudly proclaims. Along the way, the Orchestre managed to record some hundreds of songs between 1969 and 1983, some of which were released on Volume 1. Volume 2 collects songs from the era of 1969-79, a period which saw them playing the aforementioned genres with the addition of psychedelia as well as latin-influenced sounds.It’s clear from the outset of this collection that OPRdC wants nothing more than groove, be it slow or fast or anywhere in between. As long as there’s a discernible flow to the music, it’s all good. There’s nothing especially arrogant, pretentious, or complicated about the band’s music [note: complicated as in ‘a message being conveyed’ or ‘a message that makes you think,’ not complicated as in ‘complex time signatures or poly-rhythms’]. All it wants to do is make you (wanna) dance. Hell, it’d probably be satisfied if you just attempted to chant along. The listener should enjoy his/herself, that’s the point here.As to whether or not the band can play the genres listed above, based upon Volume 2 alone, the OPRdC can indeed. The vodoun drumming can be heard in the majority of songs, the percussionists resembling African versions of jazz-influenced drummers like Buddy Rich or Max Roach. What is remarkable about the rest of the genres claimed is that they aren’t necessarily a primary basis for a song. Instead, the Orchestre combines them with traditional afro-beat and African music, resulting in sub-sub fusion genres: afro-beat and psychedelia (“Gan Tche Kpo”) or afro-beat and salsa (“Mede Ma Gnin Messe” and “Ahouli Vou Yelli”) or afro-beat and funk (“Azon De Ma Gnin Kpevi” and “Minkou E So Non Main”). That said, once in a while the band does manage to make a “pure” afro-beat song. “Zizi” is one of the simplest joys of the entire compilation. Over a sunny, reggae-influenced groove, the band cha-cha’s around each other like pros as if they were auditioning for African Idol. It’s four minutes of utter bliss.A great many thank-you’s are owed to Analog Africa for this collection of unearthed gems. This compilation, though filled with music three and four decades old, suggests that if you look hard enough you can still find real, unpolluted music. Just…music. Volume 2: Echos Hypnotiques is further demonstration that the joys of music can undeniably cross language and also cultural barriers. Even if African music isn’t your go-to genre for pleasure, you should get off your ass and find a copy of this. The vast treasures contained within this album won’t all be uncovered upon the first listen, or even the tenth. As lead singer Vincent Ahehehinnou states on the AA blog, “The riches of Vodoun rhythms are of such magnitude that one would never get to the bottom of it – we’ve tried.” Couldn’t have said it better myself.RECOMMENDED

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