MK-O are a Greek duo who have been performing together since 2000. Their first album ‘Ovation’ released in 2006 and was voted as one of the top 20 albums of the last decade to come out of Greece.
‘Blues for the White Nigger‘ is their third album and CDBaby lists it as ‘Progressive Rock. That’s pretty accurate as their opus mixes a range of styles together – funk, Jazz, classical and so on – though in doing so, the work almost loses the ‘Rock’ part making it, I guess, more ‘Progressive’ than anything else!
I will warn you now that BftWN is not for everyone. If you enjoy the electronic dance style of artists such as Moby and Enigma then you’re likely to find something in this album you’ll like. If you’re not so keen on tracks based on repeated motifs – which either form the structure through continuous repetition or simply frequently reappear juxtaposed with other motifs – then you won’t be so pleased. This is, in a sense, dance music for those who don’t like to dance.
Personally, I enjoyed the album though -being a 70s baby – I’m less keen on electronic synth sounds which can easily sound dated and would have preferred a little more electric guitar in there. But such moans apart, this is a pleasing album and one I’ve been happy to listen to again and again.
Perhaps one of the reasons is that I hear so many stylistic ‘tips of the hat’ to many and varied artists. My notes for this review read like a list of some of my favourite musical artists from several different genres. This shouldn’t be a surprise: MK-O’s site admit the album is
“…hard to categorize. Extended instrumental arrangements coexist with lyrical songs. Rock, classical, techno, psychedelia, industrial, acoustic, electric and electronic instruments as well as a palette of samples varying from Cesar Franck to Son House, Pink Floyd and Ministry, give a brief idea of the sound of this album.”
Yep, I heard a lot of that too.
BftWN is a collection of twelve pieces, most of which do not run on to one another though I wonder if they should considering many pay homage to the likes of Mike Oldfield or Jean Michel Jarre. There is a heavy emphasis on instrumental sound although, according to the sleeve blurb six are vocal and six instrumental. Some of the tracks are hard to define quite like that which is not a criticism – it’s all part of the experimentalism these two musicians enjoy.
What is not in doubt is the love of Jazz-Blues which runs through almost every track particularly in the title track which comes in two parts. Similarly, funk is prevalent – especially in the bass guitar lines. After that…it’s anyone’s guess!
For instance, White Nigger Blue I had me thinking of Erik Satie’s equally experimental piano style mixed with Thelonius Monk’s eclectic jazz. When a fairground organ sound entered I thought immediately of The Beatles Sgt Pepper’s album. Who would have guessed you could combine those three?
In white Nigger Blue II the mood changed to more of a laid back jazz style which hinted of my beloved Pink Floyd. Perhaps I compared with the Floyd too unfairly as I listened because I longed for more echo and flange in the sound with this track. I felt MK-O were missing an opportunity for real psychedelic chill.
I got my fill with Tranfiguration which is, for my money, the best track on the album. Beautifully laid out with well-executed Monk-like riffs and an open ambient sound which made me think very specifically of Pink floyd’s Atom Heart Mother. By the time the piece ended I was now with Engima from the 90s instead. The Angel’s Machine, the penultimate track, carries on this ambiance reminding me of Moby at times. This was a wonderfully spaced-out piece which fitted my mood perfectly.
I don’t have time to mention all the influences I heard – there were so many! Artifacts reminded me of that great experimenter in style and sound, Kate Bush, reminiscent of the second half of her Hounds of Love album as it was. The final track, by complete contrast made me think more of the disco funk sound of Jamiroqui! And I’ll leave you to figure which track I thought sounded like Jimi Hendrix. Yes, one really did…
Overall, a good album and one which experimental funk/prog rock/ambient sound fans will enjoy. Marina Kanavaki is no stranger to this site as I’ve known her many years a wonderfully talented artist. It was only last year I discovered she is a musician too. After I bought this Blues for The White Nigger album and discovered I liked it, I promised Marina I would review it – openly and honestly. Incredibly, months later, this is the first opportunity I’ve had. For that, I apologise Marina. :)
Blues for the White Nigger is available for download here.
MK-O’s website is here.
Marina Kanavaki’s art website can be found here.