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RIO/Avant-Prog • France

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uKanDanZ biography
The French quintet UKANDANZ, a self-described "Ethiopian Crunch Music" ensemble, is a multi-national group playing high-energy ethnic jazz/noise rock with melodies inspired by Ethiopian folk and pop music. They are fronted by the considerable vocal prowess of Asnake GUEBREYES, and sport a very lively ensemble sound, often danceable, sometimes dissonant, always rhythmic. Lionel MARTIN provides a very visible tenor sax presence, tying in a jazz element, and Damien CLUZEL contributes guitar (as baritone guitar) with strong evidence of Rock-In-Opposition-like stylings. Fred ESCOUFFIER handles keyboard duties, and Guilhem MEIER keeps the drums busy yet funky.

Their first album, "Yetchalal", was released in late 2012, produced by the band.

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Buda Musique 2016
Audio CD$15.99
Buda Musique 2013
Audio CD$10.90
$10.89 (used)
Yetchalal by Buda MusiqueYetchalal by Buda Musique
Buda Musique
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UKANDANZ discography

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3.96 | 5 ratings
4.00 | 1 ratings

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 Yetchalal by UKANDANZ album cover Studio Album, 2012
3.96 | 5 ratings

uKanDanZ RIO/Avant-Prog

Review by HolyMoly
Forum & Site Admin Group Forum & Site Admin

4 stars Revision 11/25/2013: Moved the rating from a 5 to a 4. I originally assumed that most of the compositions on this album were originals (or at least loose adaptations of existing melodies), but upon learning that many of them are essentially faithful covers (and after hearing some of the originals), I've had to revise my original opinion of this album. Although it's still an endlessly exciting ride, it's not quite as "original" and musically creative as I had first thought, and thus I no longer feel it's deserving of the"masterpiece" status that earns 5 stars. It's still freakin' great, though. The original unedited review remains below:

I can't help but imagine the words "You Can Dance" when reading this band's name. And that's no coincidence: you can dance if you wannooo, you can leave your friends behind. Cause your friends may not have the dexterity to keep up with this avant-rock monster of an album.

RIO-influenced tangled melodic lines on guitar and tenor saxophone get prodded by a powerful rhythm section, pushing the music into the high-intensity zone that makes it hard to not want to dance. This stuff MOVES in a way that may seem antithetic to the clinical, unsmiling face that the RIO/Avant Prog tag often suggests. This is party music for circus acrobats.

The true secret weapon of this band, however, is the lead vocalist. He weaves impossibly complex melodic lines over the hard-charging, twisting music, drawing inspiration from Ethiopian traditional and popular songs. With all the throat noises, crazy trills, and impressive mobility around his chosen scale(s), he sounds very unique indeed in the context of Western prog. Depending on your tolerance of non-Western music, you may have a bit of trouble at first, but for fans accustomed to the non-Western influences often found in Rock-in-Opposition bands, there shouldn't be much trouble assimilating this.

The album consists of seven tracks ranging from three to nine minutes, and cover a variety of tempos, from the sullen jazz-tango of "Sema" to the fast and furious 4/4 stomp (almost ska!) of "Belomi Benna". The album opens with the confident march of "Aykedashem Lebe", establishing the band's formidable instrumental presence with a powerful avant-rock theme for a full minute and a half before the vocals come out of nowhere and take the track to a new level. A perfect opening track that shows the full range of the band and vocalist, and leaves you wanting more. Each song provides additional thrills, only really letting up on the nine-minute penultimate track, the slow, plodding "La Chamelle - Medinana Zelessegna" (actually a medley of two tracks), which has the ominous dark swing of something off 5uu's Hunger's Teeth album. But by then, this change of pace is welcome, and we are rewarded with the lively "Datsun Sefer - Mela Mela" to close out the album on a festive mood, what with the chant-along chorus of "Mela Mela" allowing the listener to join in the fun.

I've only had this album for two weeks (it was released 2 months ago), but it's hard to find fault with any of it. Every time I put it on, I find myself getting into it, and hardly ever turn it off before it's finished, like I often do in my short attention span world. The band has a unique sound that is as accessible and compelling as it is complex and daring, and they have a thoroughly non-standard (for Western music) singer who hits it out of the park again and again.

I'm going to throw caution to the wind and give this five full stars. Can't think of any good reason not to at this point.


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Thanks to HolyMoly for the artist addition.

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