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Studio Shap Shap
Le Monde Moderne

Artist release
Review by Bruce Miller

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cd cover Studio Shap Shap's music seems to have gone through a radical change since the Niamey, Niger-based quintetís last LP in 2016. Gone is the dominant role Laetitia Cecileís piano and voice once played, though she is still very much present. Gone too are the hazy, mid-tempo, nearly ambient excursions so plentiful on their debut. The field recordings remain, but this time, they appear to be less about capturing the groupís natural outdoor studio ambiance and more to do with adding layers, before, after, and during many of Le Monde Moderneís tracks. Spoken word snippets, looped vocals coming from loudspeakers, and other veiled samples permeate tracks, causing unsettling whirlwinds that serve to add chaos to tighter, faster grooves that place emphasis on Seyni Halidouís often amplified and distorted molo, Nigerís traditional lute.

ďLe ParcĒ is straight up club music, overtly in the pocket, fleshed out with what sounds like the laughter of animals, some of it coaxed from a synthesizer. Midway through, the track breaks down, as the synth and molo chatter over a keyboard clap while a bass seeesaws over Oumarou Adamouís distant percussion. The title track is molo-driven, and rides at a breakneck pace, building tension until nearly falling apart toward the end, as the rhythm dies out and the molo curls itself up against multiple layers of disembodied voices. "LíEntenteĒ moves as quickly, with molo and piano in heated conversation, pinned in placed by a thick bass clot and stubborn percussion.

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A listener could be forgiven for having no ability to even tell this is same band that recorded Chateau 1 in 2016. Itís as if coming out of the other side of the pandemic led to an album that attempted to capture the markets, the people, goats, birds, and camels that make up daily life in Niamey. Even "Les Oiseaux,Ē one of the albumsí few slower tracks, is daunting, as repeated bird calls and voices nearly capsize the foreboding music behind them.

Le Monde Moderne sails by in a rush, daring listeners to hold on. Itís at once a statement about the chaos of city life in Niamey but also of the impossibility of clutching anything in a constantly shifting world. That the more traditional instruments dominate this album only serves to make Studio Shap Shapís forward push that much more dramatic. Find the artist online.

Further reading:
Studio Shap Shap - Chateau 1
Serendou - Zinder
Tal National - Kaani
Noori & his Dorpa Band - Beja Power!

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