World in Stereo: The Sway Machinery’s The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1

World in Stereo examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.

The Sway Machinery: The House of Friendly Ghosts, Volume 1 (JDub Records, 3/8/11)

The Sway Machinery: “Gawad Teriamou”

[audio:|titles=The Sway Machinery: “Gawad Teriamou”]

Led by guitarist and lead singer Jeremiah Lockwood, Brooklyn-based band The Sway Machinery includes Yeah Yeah Yeahs drummer Brian Chase, brass players Stuart Bogie and Jordan Mclean (Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra), and baritone-sax player Colin Stetson (Tom Waits, Arcade Fire). Though something of a name-dropper’s perfect dream, The Sway Machinery actually resembles very little of its individual parts.

Instead, under the vision of Lockwood, the collective explores Jewish cantorial music within the broader sphere of world music, injecting the ancient tradition with Afro-rhythms and blues-tinged soul.  The distinct sound stems from two figures in Lockwood’s life: his grandfather, renowned cantor Jacob Konigsberg, who instilled in his lifeblood the ancient heritage of synagogue music; and Piedmont blues virtuoso Carolina Slim, who mentored Lockwood early in his career, as he played the streets and subways of New York City.  It’s a far-out mix that is sacredly funky, executed brilliantly by a collective with a dense amalgamation of contemporary sensibilities.

World in Stereo: Sidi Touré’s Sahel Folk

Each week, World in Stereo examines classic and modern world music while striving for a greater appreciation of other cultures.

Sidi Touré: Sahel Folk (Thrill Jockey, 1/25/11)

Sidi Touré: “Bon Koum”

[audio:|titles=Sidi Touré: “Bon Koum”]

It has been 13 years since Malian folk artist Sidi Touré released a solo album. Touré’s 1998 debut, Hoga, is a bluesy, foot-stomping, electric-overdrive kind of record. At the time, Touré and many of his Malian contemporaries were on the cutting edge of the evolving Afro-pop sound, just before its revival hit the West by the turn of the century. Now at 51, Touré’s sound has definitely changed, but it’s as powerful and provocative as ever.

Sahel Folk, the West African musician’s debut on Thrill Jockey, is informed by the people and places most important to him, making for a record that comes off naturally introspective. Direct from the stunning red-dirt roads of Bamako, Mali, Touré and his unmatched guitar playing have made an album that’s nothing short of inspirational.

100 Unheralded Albums from 2010

Among the thousands of under-appreciated or under-publicized albums that were released in 2010, hundreds became our favorites and were presented in ALARM and on Of those, we pared down to 100 outstanding releases, leaving no genre unexplored in our list of this year’s overlooked gems.