I've mentioned recently that it's becoming more and more evident that musicians outside U.S. borders are listening just as intently to our musics as we are to theirs. This whole World thang, ya'll, ain't confined to American exceptionalistic thinking, y'know, and, as the clever aphorism goes, other cultures are most definitely not failed experiments in trying to be us. Few CDs I've heard recently display that more firmly than Cigarros Explosivos! from the grinning Jaro Milko and his Cubalkanics, a wry reference to Cuba and the Balkans. Though the baseline to their work is palpably South of the border, each cut is so overflowing with myriad influences that I wore my pencil down to a nub trying to jot them all down. 'Twasn't long before I gave up and just went with the flow. It's what your supposed to do!
El Topo, for instance, starts out distinctly Dick Dale oriented before transforming into a swinging cha-cha / cumbia / tango-istic git-down. However, just as everything's flowing into hipsway shakin', Milko plunges band and listener into the psychedelic end of the pool before letting down into a brief muted DiMeola stutter-step. More than the other cuts, I was here clearly minded of Harvey Mandel's old fusiony work in LPs like Shangrenade. Then All the Past raised its head, and a strange mutant folky exposition welled up, something caught between Stackridge, The Woes, and a ragged band of revolutionaries trudging over hill and dale, Milko's voice that of a weary ersatz commandante who hadn't lost his populist humor despite the grimacing and gritted teeth.
The song turned into, I kid you not, a lightened-up King Crimsony progrock opus, as though Robert Fripp had been listening to Balkan oeuvre and decided that was his new enamorment (you know how Fripp is!), but, in truth, there's a lot of wry progressivism drenching this CD. Cumbia Orientale takes up from All the Past and then passes the baton forward in that regard. I have to say I suspect Milko's guitaristics are going to go over BIG in France, whence string-twanglers tend to have a markedly distinctive sense of transmigrational styles. There's a ton of rowdiness and fun in Cigarros!, well enmeshed in the energetic renditions, but my favorite cut? Damn, that's a hard one, but…I think it's Cumbia No. 5, where the Twilight Zone drinks mojitos lined up all in a row and then teleports to the sands of a beach-head on Mars where a buncha hep cats are zoning out on Jovian Tequila as Shag paints hipster canvases of The Chariots of the Tiki Gods. Yep, it's that kind of a CD.
Edited by: David N. Pyles
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