Wednesday, October 10, 2007


This past weekend, I got the movie Primeval from Netflix. If you're not familiar with it, you're not missing that much. It's a sort of horror movie starring Dominic Purcell (one of the two leads from the indescribably crappy TV series Prison Break) and Orlando Jones, an underrated comic actor who got his big break on the equally underrated MAD TV. Those two, plus a damsel destined for distress and a few other incidental schmucks, go to Africa in search of "Gustave," a 25-foot crocodile that's been eating people for years. During their search, they run afoul of the local warlord, who calls himself Little Gustave in tribute to his less-evolved but equally predatory counterpart.

The movie holds quite firmly to its view of Africa as primitive hellhole where if you're not getting chewed on by prehistoric beasts, you're getting shot or raped by the savage natives - who haven't changed a bit despite trading nose-bones for post-colonial fatigues and AK-47s. So sensitive souls will doubtless find it regressive, even offensive. That's not the big problem for me, of course - I've been watching white-man-in-the-Third-World horror flicks going back at least to Wes Craven's The Serpent And The Rainbow, if not Deodato Ruggiero's Cannibal Holocaust, and I'm fine with their...uncomplicated racial politics. My big problem with Primeval is that it's boring. The crocodile is a fairly phony bit of CGI, and the thuggish Africans aren't half as intimidating as the project dealers in The Wire.

The only good scene in the whole thing, the only moment that displays even a glimmer of style, is one in which a little girl, swimming in a river, is eaten in a single bite, with no anticipatory Jaws-style music or anything. One second she's there, the next she's not, and there are no shocked reactions from adult bystanders, or anything - we're just off to the next scene. That filmmaking choice, in its way, displays a genuine attitude toward the cheapness of African lives to the filmmakers - an ugly attitude, but a clear one, and thus worth displaying on-screen.

But anyway, my point in typing this post isn't to talk about the movie, but its soundtrack. There's very little non-score music in the film; three or four songs, one of which rolls over the closing credits. But of those four songs, two are absolute scorchers - so awesome, in fact, that I paused the credits so I could write them down and seek out the compilations on which they appear.

The first is Moussa Doumbia's "Keleya." Appearing in two versions (one just under five minutes, one nudging eleven) on an album of the same name, it's a scorching hunk of Afro-funk that combines almost muezzin-like chanted vocals with Archie Shepp-esque buzzy/roaring sax and guitar that sounds sourced from a James Brown bootleg circa 1969 on the short version, and from a Can bootleg circa 1972 on the long take. Plus, the long take adds sardonic female backing vocals reminiscent of Afrika 70 at their best.

The second is "Allah Wakbarr," by Ofo The Black Company. It's available in a couple of places - the Luaka Bop compilation World Psychedelic Classics 3: Love's A Real Thing, or where I found it, on the 3CD set Nigeria '70: The Definitive Story Of 1970s Funky Lagos, a blazing 3CD set that also features early and/or rare tracks by Koola Lobitos, King Sunny Ade, and Fela with Afrika 70, among many others. Import-only, but well worth dredging up if you're at all into 1970s Afro-funk. (If you're not into 1970s Afro-funk, what the hell is wrong with you, anyway?) This track is even noisier and wilder than "Keleya," featuring a scraping-the-inside-of-your-skull-with-a-rusty-chisel guitar sound to open things up that would make Jack White wet himself, and a riff straight out of a 1971 cop show. Every sound, from vocals to percussion to that unbelievably hellish guitar, has been fed through so much distortion it makes Konono No. 1 sound like the cleanest Berlin techno you ever chilled to. These guys are like the Chambers brothers on crystal meth, borrowing Motörhead's PA. An absolute must-hear.

This has been Multiculturalism For The Uncultured. See you around!

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