Fool's Gold - Fool's Gold CD
Personnel: Matt Popieluch (vocals, guitar); Mark Noseworthy (vocals, alto saxophone); Amir Kenan (vocals, keyboards); Orpheo McCord, Salvador Placencia, Erica García, Michael Tapper (vocals, percussion); Luke Top (vocals); Jimmy Vincent, Jimmy Vincent, Lewis Pesacov (guitar); Brad Caulkins (tenor saxophone); Garrett Ray (drums).
Audio Mixer: Ariel Rechtshaid.
Recording information: Black Iris Studios, Downey; Mexican Radio Studios, Echo Park; Sunset Lodge Studios, Silverlake, Los Angeles, CA.
Arrangers: Luke Top; Lewis Pesacov.
In a similar spirit to artists like Extra Golden and NOMO, the music of L.A.'s Fool's Gold is fundamentally rooted in -- not merely inspired by -- international (and more specifically, African) sounds and styles, even if they essentially emerged within the context of American indie rock (for one thing, three of the band's members overlap with the more straight-ahead indie outfit Foreign Born.) This self-titled debut finds the group -- a 12-strong cohort led by bassist/vocalist Luke Top and lead guitarist Lewis Pesacov, featuring a pair of saxophonists and a full four members devoted to percussion and chant-like auxiliary vocals -- delving energetically into eight spicy, polyrhythmic, highly danceable compositions whose emphasis is firmly on groove and riff, as opposed to songs, per se. Top's curiously resonant, commanding vocals do provide a focal point (he sings primarily in Hebrew, a significant personal distinction for the Israeli-born vocalist, but one which non-Hebrew-speaking listeners will find merely adds another subtle layer to the general ethnic ambiguity at play here), but they are interspersed throughout to give equal weight to the rest of the ensemble, and especially to Pesacov's deliciously nimble fretwork, which is central to the album's idiomatic credibility (cementing, in particular, the buoyant opener/lead single/instant standout "Surprise Hotel.") To some listeners, the stylistic accuracy and pan-ethnic eclecticism of the group's highly informed cross-cultural homages/borrowings (an Ethiopiques-styled number here, a Tuareg blues-informed one there) may come off as somewhat glib and generic, and indeed, the album has a bit of the faceless feel of, say, a Putomayo: Africa compilation. But that in itself is, all things considered, an impressive feat for a motley crew of Angelenos; the fact that, far from dry mimicry, Fool's Gold offers up an abundance of joy and soul makes it both a significant statement -- further testament to the limitless potential of global musical cross-pollination -- and, much more importantly, a hell of a party record. ~ K. Ross Hoffman
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