It’s been six years since we have heard from Karl Hector & The Malcouns and their debut record Sahara Swing on Now-Again. Their first record caused quite a stir which resulted in the band being in high demand. They were thrust on the festival circuit, as promotors were excited to have them play alongside African legends like Ebo Taylor and others who were on their second wind of their career. Eager to please the throngs of concert goers who were loving the African influenced funk and rock, this band developed a cult following. It’s hard not to be interested in such an interesting band. At this point we all know that Karl Hector is really JJ Whitefield aka Jan Weisenfeldt of the Poets of Rhythm and the Whitefield Brothers, the German guitarist and producer who helped revive the gritty analog sound of funk and beyond in the 1990’s. Along with Thomas Myland, Bo Boral, and Zdenko Curlija, they have explored many sides of African music, with a common denominator in each one: forward progression and an open mind. While their first effort may have had multiple influences across the African continent, their sophomore release Unstraight Ahead, is being billed as “Afrodelic Kraut Funk”, this time drawing their influences from West African sounds of Ghana and East African sounds of Mulatu Estatke, as much as from Krautrock pioneers Can, as well as more obscure bands such as Agitation Free, Tomorrow’s Gift, and Ibliss.
“Jo Nibunga”, the first single, is built on a foundation of Canlike guitars, with an undertone of of African percussion that grabs your attention from the first note. It’s a departure of sorts from Sahara Swing, but has the listener going on a journey that they may or may not have taken before. Karl Hector and The Malcouns push the envelope of coolness here on the full record. While tunes like “Push Na Ya” are percussion/ chant filled (with heavy, heavy organ), a track like “Who’s Foolin’ Who” combines their Krautrock and African influences to a tee. “Omebele (Makossa)” is a funky Afrobeat head nodder as “Mission Control” is a fine example of Mulatu’s influence on this outfit. Driven by funk in many forms, the whole record is a porridge of sounds cooked just right. Unstraight Ahead may have flown under the radar since it was released, but it’s a fine offering from a veteran, well rounded band, who are not afraid to push limits and reach out spiritually and musically. We love this record more and more with each spin.
Buy the record here.