Fasokan is probably the lushest, most unexpected and difficult to categorise albums to come from Portland’s Sahel Sounds label. It’s the work of Luka Guindo, a rapper, producer and multi instrumentalist from Bamako Mali, who’s previously had some of his hip hop productions released as a limited cassette by Sahel Sounds. They’re terming it “New Age music from West Africa,” and whilst there is a decidedly tranquil feel to much of the album, it’s also much more complex, or perhaps different to the way we’ve previously understood the term. Space age synth (if we were in the 80’s) swirls beneath the spine of interlocking balafon, whilst occasional drum machine, vocals, spoken word, field recordings, cut up kora, flute or horns appear or disappear. Most of the pieces have a spine of repetitive balafon around which minimal sounds oscillate. It’s sparse, but effective, where sampled elements of traditional music’s are enmeshed into notions of ambient electronic and new age music, existing in this kind of netherworld, made even stranger by the knowledge that its author works mostly in hip hop. The warm woody sounds of the balafon utilised instead of the harsh artificial timbre of programmed hip hop beats, as well as heady doses of reverb are what immediately makes one associate the music with new age, yet there are no babbling brooks, and the flute when it appears is a complex melody pared with strange clipped vocal whoops. The production here really is something to behold, as Fasokan is one of the lushest, most rewarding, and strangest albums you are going to come across in a while.
You can read more about Guindo’s studio here.