Anima Sound System

Hungarian Astronaut

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When a band calls itself a "sound system," that usually implies a reggae connection or influence ("sound systems" being the traveling discos that have provided the music for outdoor dances in Jamaica and London since the 1960s). In the case of a band like Anima Sound System, that's an especially promising proposition, since there's a lot of potential in the combination of Western beats and East European tonal flavors. And on Hungarian Astronaut, the promise is borne out nicely with a program of music characterized by lots of eerily pretty Balkan female vocals, lots of unusual samples, and lots of funky mid-tempo beats that are clearly mechanical yet strangely warm and inviting. The album opens with "East & Bass," which features the best sample of the album ("...and the Communists have nothing to offer but fat cheeks and eyeglasses and lying policemen") and which segues nicely into "Isten Dob Basszus," a gently swinging piece of East European drum'n'bass that features the second best sample of the album (Prince Far I intoning something or other in Amharic). There are other highlights as well: the jazz bass and funk drums that underlie the wailing Balkan vocals on "Ket Ut Van Erlottem," the reggae-inflected bassline, talking drums and trip-hop groove of "Csillagtalan," and the funky sitar on "Mamo." Hungarian Astronaut is a deeply satisfying excursion in ethno-funkology.

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