While it`s not out for a fortnight, I`ve been lucky enough to have been living with this album for close to a month. While sonically speaking it`s not strictly so similar, I’m reminded of Angelique Kidjo`s Remain In Light. `Cos the quality is that high. Like last year`s Talking Heads cover, if you only buy one record in 2019, then my recommendation is that Gigi`s Illuminated Audio should be it.
Angelique`s record was 21st Century Afro. Giving the music of The Heads, and Angelique`s West African homeland, a modern twist. Gigi`s Illuminated Audio dates from 2003, but has been rendered timeless by producer, Bill Laswell. Fusing the singer’s East African roots with Highlife, JuJu, and tabla.
The album`s title references one of the oldest known Gospels. A 15th Century “illuminated”, illustrated, manuscript written in Ge’ez, the ancient language of Ethiopia. The record`s a radical remix of Gigi`s vocal set from 2001. Both released by Chris Blackwell`s post-Island Records, Palm Pictures. Both recorded at Laswell`s New Jersey Studio, Orange Music. Employing a cast of twenty-nine singers and players. Featuring musicians from South Africa, Senegal, Japan, India, and Greece. There are cameos from legends such as Herbie Hancock, Henry Threadgill, Pharoah Sanders, and Wayne Shorter. The album`s rendering of a world-wide musical unity, sharing much with Laswell`s seminal reworkings of Bob Marley, Dreams Of Freedom: Ambient Translations.
Illuminated Audio is a pan-global conjuring of Ethiopian modal pentatonics, with a subliminal Jackie Mittoo Rocksteady strut. Jazz in the sax. Muted Miles in the French and flugelhorns. All dropped into dubwise. Rimshots reverb-ed. Jah Wobble throb in the bass. Melodica, organ, accordion, instruments slipping in and out of focus. The guitar picked, wah-wah-licked, and run backwards for a sitar-esque effect. Beats chopped in like ecstatic fingers jamming a cross-fader. Tabla tapping, hand drums in ritual. Percussive waves lapping at a Red Sea Hills oasis shore. Echoed storms in the distance. Gigi, a multi-tracked angel, to the fore. Her lullabies and prayers fragmented into orbiting to clips of chorus.
A definite journey, the album moves through a rhythmic first half, to a more dream-like second. Originally released as a seamless sixty minutes on CD, London’s Time Capsule have remastered, and recut, the recordings across four sides of vinyl. Personally I`d love to hear this loud, on a big system, and in the open air. Rainbow Disco Club would be a prime candidate.