Generally speaking, techno dance music is not the first solution that comes to mind when debating global strife. Frequency, the full-length debut album by Naked Rhythm, proposes just that as a possible first step to achieving world unity. According to founders Alex Spurkel and Avi Sills, "We are trying to get people to open up and think outside of their own cultural reference point, to be more accepting of cultures and people they might normally have conflict with. We are trying to present a model for the world. There's a lot of war going on in the world right now, and a lot of healing that needs to be done. . . and music breaks down walls instantly. "
Lofty aspirations aside, Frequency does an admirable job of fusing world music and electronica. By taking native rhythms from the Middle East, Africa, India, and Brazil, and beefing them up with techno dance effects, Spurkel and Sills generally deliver an end result that's palatable across a wide cultural spectrum. The problem is there are times when it's too agreeable. "Samba Bionic" for instance, relies too much on trance remixing to be interesting beyond the club dance floor.
For the most part, though, the fluid collective of musicians that is Naked Rhythm build a sea of sound that ebbs and flows ethereally between cultural and musical idioms. The opening tune, "Deep Lotus," lures you in with a light jazz feel imbued with Indian roots, only to jerk you into an almost cyberpunk world with "Babylon", combining hip-hop and traditional Arabic rhythms in an otherwordly setting that demonstrates the universality of music.
Since Spurkel and Sills are both accomplished drummers, the entire album is heavily percussive, and it's their driving beats that keep the album cohesive. But it's their uncanny ability to meld traditional global music with electronica, coupled with the drive of the musicians with whom they surround themselves, that makes Frequency stand above most dance albums. Talents featured here include Abhiman Kaushal, known for his tabla work with Ravi Shankar, Lebanese spiritual singer Tony Khalife, Oakland-based rapper Brutha Los, soul songstress CC White and Woroud Antabal, best known as a traditional Muslim vocalist.
Despite its decidedly urban nightclub flavor, the music on Frequency is more organic than electronic. Overall, the album is a celebration of cultural and ethnic diversity, and how the commonalities of music weave us all together as a human race. And while I'm not totally convinced that therein lies the key to world peace, I have to think it couldn't hoit.
Naked Rhythm's live shows are celebrations in themselves, replete with belly dancers and accoustic instruments from various cultures. This disc also includes a bonus DVD performance and interview segment that provides you with a more complete picture of the band.