Something has happened with electronic musicians and producers. We’re not confined to the ghetto of electronic sounds any more. You could argue it’s a sign of waning interest in those timbres, but I think it’s something else: people are simply becoming more flexible creative producers, comfortable with acoustic and electrified and synthesized sounds alike.

So, in that spirit, one of my most anticipated albums of this year has been one that’s mostly instrumental and not-terribly-electronic or digital. It’s the March release Saskamodie from Mocky, Somali-Canadian-Yemeni musician. I’ve just begun listening to it, and I’m quite enjoying it. It’s definitely retro, a groovy, poppy reverie that seems more than a little inhabited by the soul of Serge Gainsbourg, who once recorded in the studio in which it was recorded. It’s also effective partly because it fits squarely into the realm of jazz. It oozes warmth and humor, sonically and musically.

In the meantime, Mocky himself has shown us how to market effectively with tongue planted firmly in cheek, as seen in the video above. It’s a dangerous maneuver to attempt – trained professionals only. But by invoking some digital effects and a heavy dose of hyperbole, Mocky I think manages to strike a balance between self-promotion and self-deprecation.

He has some help from his friends, too: collaborators Jamie Lidell, Feist, Gonzales, Kevin Blechdom, and Peaches show up. That lineup puts Mocky in with a crowd that embodies a growing retro-savvy aesthetic. I actually don’t think that “retro” has to even carry any negative connotations. Done poorly, of course, an album can simply seem backwards-looking or out of place – but that’s true anyway. Done well, we have a new sense that time can fold in on itself, that in an age of digital recordings, we share musical space virtually, even with musicians who are now very dead. And maybe that’s the zeitgeist this video unwittingly touches.

After all, at worst, we live in an age that could be a simple, cheap digital effect – the kind being (cough) mocked here. We could paste ourselves onto old musical styles, and look just as awkward as a couple of the motion-tracked faux heads floating on the bodies of drummers of the past. Happily, I don’t find that that’s the case here. Mocky has a comfort and sensibility that somehow hints that it’s 2009, but perhaps 2009 doesn’t have to be 2009.

That said, I’d still like to hear more envelope-pushing in these retro directions. Sure, it’s fun channeling Serge Gainsbourg, but I don’t hear people challenging someone really tough, like bleeding-edge Miles Davis. The styles we cherish so much came out of real experimentation. Maybe that’s a challenge for myself as much as for the albums on my listening queue. Nonetheless, Mocky’s mock-marketing and self-branding is as suave as his music, and Saskamodie is like an easy-to-drink, expensive port – a dessert drink, but a delicious one.

You can download the new album from the label, Crammed Discs.

Thanks to Tobias Thon for this one (via Facebook).

  • "electronic musicians and producers. We’re not confined to the ghetto of electronic sounds any more"

    It's not about electronic musicians and producers. It's musicians using electronic instruments in the same way they use any other instrument. It's just another instrument. You're no longer special if you know about technology and don't know about composition.

    Welcome to competition with every other real musician.

  • I'm talking about how artists are classified. That's an external process that has to do with things like "genre", all of which I think are ultimately artificial. I think electronic musicians have long been "real musicians," so I don't see any new competition — especially not for someone with the chops Mocky's got. (Some of us, ahem, do know lots about composition, call ourselves composers, but may be lacking in the chops department … but, hey, it happens.) 😉

    I don't know how you determine "real" in musicians. I think genres and time are breaking down, which can only be a good thing.

  • bliss

    That's pretty cool!

  • bliss

    Sometimes the coolest things go unnoticed. Weird.

  • a reader writes

    Purchased on this recommendation. Really enjoying it so far.