Mop Mop - Isle of Magic

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Mop Mop
Isle of Magic
Agogo Records (

Their name might put you in mind of the old Prince Buster song "Wash Wash," but Mop Mop, an Italian band with a sound that's a mash of Afrobeat, acid jazz, Caribbean mystique, soul and Cal Tjader, is something quite different. Music that's difficult to categorize can likewise be maddeningly hard to review. In Mop Mop's instance, however, the music is so waist-winding enjoyable that one doesn't give a flying funk about what it ought to be called. The title Isle of Magic provides something of a clue, referring to an imaginary place inhabited by musicians who work during the day and play all night. Pity it doesn't really exist; if it did, you'd want to book passage as soon as possible and spend your vacation (or perhaps the rest of your life) getting down with the locals.

As far as specifics on the tunes they're getting down to, percussion figures prominently and vibraphonist/marimba player Pasquale Mirra most often fills up the melodic space, although keyboardist Alex Trebo and clarinetist/flutist Guglielmo Pagnozzi get pieces of the action too. The tracks, equal measures of Africa and African diaspora, groove with a thoroughly satisfying relentlessness that usually begins by establishing a foundation of polyrhythmic drumming and then sweetening it with bass and the instrumental sounds noted above. Sometimes executed tightly and deftly but just as often leaving room for the all-natural beats to flow and take your brain and hips along for the ride, the music is borderline unpredictable without ever sacrificing solid arrangements for the sake of merely coming across weird or trippy. There are guest players who contribute guitar, additional percussion, horns in a few spots, and vocals that include the poetic intonations of Anthony Joseph and Sara Sayed's crooning coyness.

Recorded in Germany and Italy using analog equipment, the album has a warm, flesh-and-blood feel that thankfully has not been lost in today's digital age. Isle of Magic was released in early 2013, so many who are reading this may already know how superb it is. If you're a latecomer like me, waste no more time in seeking it out and being very glad you did. - Tom Orr

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