Smod - Smod
I worked as a 2nd engineer at a small recording studio for a couple of years to learn the ropes. One evening, the guitarist who ran the place surprised me with a new song he was working on that had the unmistakable and calming sound of crickets in the background. “Mark my words,” he said with a sly smile, “someday all records will have crickets on them.” Thankfully he was wrong. That would get annoying after a short while. But, the concept of sonic wallpaper has been very effectively utilized by adventurous producers like Manu Chao. His often acoustic melodies cycle in simple repetition over a soundscape of filtered voices, analog synth laser bursts, pops and whistles, static and other ambience. It’s become a signature you’ll find not only his own material but on ground-breaking albums like Dimanche a Bamako by Amadou et Mariam and now, the international debut by their son Sam and his Afro-rap trio Smod. The self-titled disc is actually the third from Sam Mouzy and Ousco, but the first to be picked up on a western label, Nacional Records. Like most African rap that has made its way to our shores, Smod are more musical and harmonized than the North American variety. Again, the melodies are simple and cyclical with Master Chao’s wonderful weirdness filling out the sparseness. Lyrically, they preach the power of hip hop to embolden African youth by giving them a strong voice. But, they’re not fanatical. They can just as likely rap about girls and partying. They’re just three young guys who have bonded as friends around music and voice and there’s genuine sincerity that emerges as a result through the course of the album’s fourteen tracks. J’ai Pas Peur Du Micro, featuring French female rap artist Keny Arkana pours a little petrol on the soft burn with some crunchy electric guitar. Smod is a charming disc with lots of listen ability. I’m glad that Manu Chao’s looming presence didn’t totally overshadow the three bright lights responsible.