Our Daily Bread 438: Bongo Joe Records’ 5th Anniversary: ‘Futur Antérieur’

April 15, 2021

ALBUM REVIEW/Dominic Valvona

Various ‘Futur Antérieur’
(Bongo Joe) 16th April 2021

A polygenesis swap shop the Swiss-based label and record store hub of repute Bongo Joe (in association with various label partners, curators and the like) have chosen to celebrate their 5th anniversary by asking the label’s current roster to cover songs from the imprint’s reissue back catalogue. The results of which are as eclectic as anything they’ve ever released in the past, with the music of Indian Ocean Islets, the Algerian ex-pat community in Lyon, 50s Bahamas and Azerbaijan rubbing up congruously against the ‘possible musics’ spirit of New Wave and Post-Punk Spain and, closer-to-home, the electronic Swiss underground in the 80s.

If you’re a fan of the Geneva lakeside label-store then you’ll recognize some of the compilation material that’s covered on this nineteen-track collection. And if you’re a regular follower/reader of the Monolith Cocktail then you’ll know we’ve featured a number of those same releases over the last couple of years. But for those unfamiliar with Bongo Joe’s unsaid ‘raison d’être’, this is a label with a penchant for unearthing forgotten, waylaid and less trumpeted international scenes from across a seventy-year plus period.

Of the entire back catalogue, Spain’s post-Franco Synth-Wave and Post-Punk La Contra Ola compilation from 2018 is among the most represented on this anniversary special. The Amsterdam oddities The Mauskovic Dance Band turn Esplendor Geométrico’s original lo fi ‘Moscú Está Helado’ into a wafted No Wave saxophone lingered dance of Can, Populäre Mechanik and early Mute Records: a Post-punk dance if you will. The maverick innovators of Cumbia, Bogota’s infamous Meridian Brothers, take the Zombies ‘Extranos Juegos’ on a customary South American ride; keeping it lo fi but with stop-offs on Bitori’s Cape Verde and a Psychedelic Colombia. Drinking liberally from the Cabaret Voltaire bar, the eccentric, Dadaist Swiss Orchestre Tout Puissant Marcel Duchamp really do a job on Tres’ ‘I Doubt’; transforming the original into an Avant-Garde suite of plucked, pizzicato diy art-school Pop-Punk and Trip-Hop breakbeat.

Staying in the Swiss cantons, last year’s survey of the country’s experimental electronic movement, INTENTA, furnishes this compilation with a trio of inspired choice tunes. Carole Rich, who appeared as one of the only women in a heavily male-dominated track list, has two very different bands vying for her attention; both covering her vaporous hushed and airy Pop turn ‘Computered Love’.  First up, Malawi’s Madalitso Band literally brings that song home, with a most sweetly natured African lullaby treatment. Later on in the running order, Brussels’s Mameen 3 have a go at the same song, amping up the 80s atmosphere and incorporating transmogrified visions of ‘Radio GaGa’ Queen, Miami Vice and the Outrun arcade game music. 

Heading west from the Alpine landscape, and towards Lyon, there are a couple of choice covers from the Maghreb K7 Club collection of ‘Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi’ musical styling’s: essentially the Casio and rudimental synth apparatus infectious music of Algerian émigrés in the city’s café scene. One of the stars of that tape cassette culture, Nordine Staifi, is transported, transformed by both Hyperculte and Pixvae’s covers; the former, which opens this album, turns the source material into a Moroccan version of Beloved, with hints of PiL and Acid Arab, the latter, bobs along to a South Seas vibe of marimba, male and female lead choral lushness and an on/off staccato break: the drums slipping and the atmosphere poured and sauntering.

Worthy mentions at this point go to the Turkish Derya Yildirim & Grup Simsek romantic and spiritual translations of the late Azerbaijan guitar legend Rüstem Quliyev’s already well-travelled and traversed ‘Ay Duli Dili’ (cross-hatches of both Bab L’ Bluz and Baba ZuLa), the esoteric Lausanne folk weavers Meril Wubslin’s rustic Medieval nylon-strung vibrated version of Michel Legris ‘soul sgea’ offering ‘Elida’ (GOAT meets Fever Ray), and for sheer audacity, Baby’sBerserk’s NRG Chicago Housed-up jumping transformation of Charlie Adamson’s 50s Bahamas serenade ‘Bangalee’.

A echo of Karen ‘O’ here; some reggae there; even a touch of Arabian Marvin Gaye, there’s no let up in the diverse array of cultures, musical tangents and influences on this cross-pollination of transportive (and highly danceable a lot of the time) cover versions. It proves to have been an inspired concept that offers up a host of fresh, dynamic, playful and revitalised performances of old stock. Here’s to the next five years of such global sonic enterprise and invention. Raise a glass, clear the living room floor and celebrate in style.

You can find previous reviews of the Bongo Joe label roster here:

Various ‘La Ola Interior: Spanish Ambient & Acid Exoticism 1983-1990’

Meril Wubslin ‘Alors Quoi’

Rüstəm Quliyev ‘Azerbaijani Gitara’

Pedro Lima  ‘Maguidala’

Damily   ‘Early Years: Madagascar Cassette Archives’

Various   ‘Maghreb K7 Club: Synth Raï, Chaoui & Staifi 1985-1997’

Various   ‘INTENTA: Experimental & Electronic Music From Switzerland 1981 – 1993’

Chouk Bwa & The Ångströmers   ‘Vodou Alé’


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