Afro-Mystik

Morphology

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Gone are the days when dance producers could be thought competent at the tribal-house game by simply lifting a few samples from their roommates' worldbeat albums. The bar was raised yet again with the development of the Bay Area house scene over the late '90s and early 2000s (courtesy of labels like Naked Music and Om), with many producers gaining enough connections and experience to create intriguing fusions of live music and programming. The San Francisco collective Afro-Mystik, a sextet of like-minded individuals, does much the same thing, merging diva-driven dance music with live rhythms inspired by the music of Brazil and West Africa. In harmony with the record's cover, however (a lame take-off on Miles Davis' fusion landmark Bitches Brew), the group sounds much more earnest than exciting, with generic track ideas and average playing that occupies a samey middle-ground between freestyle live jamming, exploratory world music, and hooky dance. Vocalist Omega has the perfect voice for dance tracks like the ones that lead off Morphology, but after one excellent performance (the single "Natural"), it's obvious she doesn't have much more to say. A pair of features for rapper Capitol A (Jazzanova, King Britt) are interesting sidebars, one of them ("Who Are You?") with some ace squelchy keys and Fender Rhodes atmospherics. "Dreamwalkers" and "Intersections," a two-track exploration into world jazz, also have a few intriguing ideas scattered among their bland drum programming and cheery jungle effects (straight out of the Lonnie Liston Smith mode). Too often on Morphology, Afro-Mystik seem content to evoke the sound of what's gone before instead of truly exploring new forms of music, which is what they seemed to be striving for.

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