Kad Achouri

Liberté

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Whatever they'd been putting in the water in France in the years surrounding this release, they need more of it. Kad Achouri might live in London, but he was nurtured in France and has the same freewheeling attitude as countryman Manu Chao, except he seems to have been raised on hip-hop, R&B, and jazz instead of punk. There was joyful diversity to this record, softly soulful on "Mi Negra," enjoying the passion of flamenco on "J'Aimerai." But he loves his hip-hop beats, although he owes more to MC Solaar than N.W.A.. There's a wonderful flow to the lines on, say, "Mohammed," with its jazzy inflections, that make him a credible rapper, as well as an accomplished musician who wrote most of the material here, as well as providing programming, keyboards, and much of the arrangements. "Sous la Lune" takes him to Brazil, while "Il Faut Que Çà Change" is classy hip-hop pop with a marvelously catchy chorus. "Vue sur la Mer" is pure jazz, leading into "African Piano" with an Archie Shepp sample and an ambitious arrangement. This is a record that refuses to stay in one place or genre, but never feels like it's trying to find its home. Achouri loves music, and his mind works well everywhere, even into the new age-isms of the lovely, lyrical "Piano Piano." As debuts go, this is astonishing, assured, sometimes challenging, but brilliantly conceived and performed.

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