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18 February 2017

Kip Hanrahan ‎– 'Coup De Tête' (American Clavé)

Coup De Tête is an odd one, and a record eclipsed by its followup, Desire Develops an Edge, if only because the latter got mentioned in The Wire magazine's list of '100 Records That Set the World on Fire'. It's hard to imagine anything about this setting the world on fire, though it's a hell of an interesting stab at bringing together a bunch of avant-leaning New York musicians and trying to create a new kind of fusion. Percussion is the main game here, with most tracks being built around Hanrahan and two or three other musicians on bongos, congas, and iya (plus Anton Fier usualy on trap drums). Both sides end with a drum-free cover version - Marguerite Duras' 'India Song' on side 1 (sung by a throaty Carla Bley) and Teo Macero's 'Heart on My Sleeve' to end the whole album (with Macero himself as guest). While listening to this you have to read the liner notes to follow who plays on what, as there's a bunch of big names almost hidden. Guitar duties are mostly Arto Lindsay but Fred Frith makes an appearance; their gutsy attacks are mixed quite low, almost inperceptible at times, underneath the percussion, but I think that was the right decision. Hanrahan is the wild card - when he sings, it's more like an earnest spoken-word chant, and as the record goes on he starts to disappear from it. He's really the producer, composer and Svengali here, more than he is an active musician, and some of the best tracks don't feature him at all. The standout is 'This Night Comes Out of Both of Us', featuring Lisa Herman (last heard on Kew. Rhone) and Bill Laswell's usual weird dub farts; somehow the percussion layers make this into a really dark, crisp, electric forest which sounds completely striking today, 36 years later. Herman's vocals are breathy and mysterious, getting into sexually explicit lyrics in 'A Lover Divides Time (To Hear How It Sounds)'. I've always really liked this record because it's a weird oddball - it feels like an environment where Hanrahan gave just enough structure to let the musicians really explore while sticking to a vision. It feels like a weird take on the idea of 'world music' while also having traces of rock and a lot of jazz but somehow not sounding like any of the above, which I guess is the best thing one could hope for from the idea of 'fusion' anyway. I don't think there's a lot of people repping Kip Hanrahan records in 2017 which means you can probably find them fairly cheap (if at all) and this and the follow-up are certainly worth your time -a rare case of a supergroup that works.

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