Thursday 14 March 2024

Post Kaskrot - Sidi Sidi (2024)

Country: Morocco
Style: Alternative Rock
Rating: 7/10
Release Date: 22 Feb 2024
Sites: Bandcamp | Facebook | Instagram | YouTube

Here's something interesting from Morocco that starts out experimental but quickly becomes a highly accessible hybrid of pop, rock and world music. That experimental opening is the intro, I am Many Things, and Many Things I am Not, which is a strange vocal melody against dissonant organ, ambient sound and what I presume are experimental keyboards. That leads into an alternate pop rock song about a dog called Douglas that's built out of friendly vocals, surf guitar chords and an array of Arabic melodies. It's part Cake, part Walk Like an Egyptian and part Frank Zappa, which is a strange but enticing mix.

What's odd is that neither of these pieces of music is particularly representative of the album. It starts to find its go forward stance with Dragonfly Dragonflew, which is a poppy song with a psych overlay that gradually takes over, reminiscent of sort of seventies singer/songwriters who liked to trawl in folk music and get a little weird with it, like the middle eastern flutes that show up during the midsection. There's theremin on this album too, I think, most obviously on Yelele, unless it's a saw. Unfortunately, I'm not seeing credits.

That psychedelic pop rock edge is never far away as the album progresses, but it's all deepened by the sort of approach that Manu Chao often took to make this not just a mere album containing a set of songs but a kind of experience. That's done through adding ambience, improvisation and a conversational approach to ephemeral material, like radio chatter, often between songs but also within them. That begins at the end of Dragonfly Dragonflew and only gets more frequent as the album runs on. By the time we get to Sun Sun Sun... at the end of the album, someone even asks a simple question: how would you describe this album in two words. The response? "God damn!"

Those were the two approaches I took away from this. It's structured like an Manu Chao album but the songs are subtler, his immediate earworm melodies replaced by more introspective material that veers between friendly pop and more abrasive alternative rock. However, there are points at which Post Kaskrot dip into a similar sort of musical territory as Chao, like the reggae sections of Seapsyche Onion and Grace, or incorporates other songs into the original material in a Chao style, like the refrain from Frère Jacques within Donner Kebab and a glimpse of the Cops theme tune in Sun Sun Sun...

It all makes for a heady mixture, as if we're not sitting at home listening to an album unfold but in the studio in Rabat where Post Kaskrot were putting it together. For a release that has so much in the way of post-production to add all those radio segments and other snippets, it feels very loose, some songs so much so that whoever's in this band may have just been jamming them, with guests occasionally added if they happen to stick their head through the door at the opportune moment. There's Amygdala on Sulfur Surfer, presumably the powerful female voice, and Genue on Grace, a French musician who looks to be just as versatile as Post Kaskrot.

There's so much here that it's hard to pick out favourites. I dig Seapsyche Onion, one of the loose songs that we can just fall into like an ocean and let it just take us away. I like the up beat garage rock meets rockabilly approach to Donner Kebab too, easily the most bouncy song here. Hejazz is an exquisite piece too, finding a wonderful ethnic groove. I can explain why I like all those tracks, but I'm lost as to why Yelele speaks to me. It's a laid back piece but it's seeping into my soul for no reason I can figure. It ought to feel a little lost in between Seapsyche Onion and Grief Tower, but I fall for it every time through. It may well be my favourite song here.

I'm loving everything I'm hearing from North Africa, but I'm not hearing a heck of a lot. I'm sure there are a lot of bands doing interesting things and I need to find a way to plug into how I can not miss them as they put out new material. Case in point: this is Post Kaskrot's debut album but they put out an EP in 2020 called Kastle. Bandcamp credits Benmoussa Amine as the primary musician and songwriter, with Baha Ghassane also contributing. I have no idea if they're still the names here or not, but I like what I hear anyway. If you have open ears to where pop and rock can go in countries outside the norm, Post Kaskrot are well worth checking out.

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