The Meters: Look-Ka Py Py Album Review
It is very urgent for me to constantly remind myself that music, more often than not, did not materialize out of nowhere. The most urgent, in particular, when faced with an album or a band that sounds as if it had arrived on the wings of an invisible miracle, as if someone sacred had opened their palm somewhere, and the Meters came out, fully formed and already spiraling through a series of immersive grooves, each one sounding like the birth of a new universe.
But the reality is, someone drummed a drum somewhere once. Someone sounded the alarm with a voice that called for another voice and then another. The reality is that the drums, voices and dances could have taken place in American streets or in American fields, but these traditions were carried on by a people who were forced to be here, forced to work, to build and to maintain lands that were not their land, families that were not their families. Their music and celebration was a reaction to this ongoing series of robberies.
For example, in New Orleans at the end of the 18th century, there were Sundays and Congo Square. For those enslaved in the Spanish-dominated city, Sunday was considered a day of rest. The enslaved peoples would take their afternoon off and gather just outside the city, the only place where the city’s rulers would allow them to gather in groups. The space in which they met was originally called Place des Nègres, then Place Congo, then Place du Congo.
There, hundreds of African slaves could gather to dance, make music with bamboula drums, bells, gourds, banjos, the instruments of their hands and their voices. These rallies continued long after the Civil War, even when white officials attempted to quell the celebrations, in part by renaming the area in honor of Confederate General PGT Beauregard. But the music and dancing continued.
These gatherings kept together the sounds and traditions of African music, but they also invigorated the capacity for improvisation – to grant an improviser and his audience a doorway to emotional and physical liberation, or freedom, however brief – she. For those in the know, for those who have stepped into a place – literally or otherwise – without a specific plan of how to get off, improvising, when aligned with other equally adventurous people, can be exhilarating. A promise that every moment you decide to raise your arms in the air, another pair of hands will emerge, ready to lead you on to the next.
In 1969 the Meters were New Orleans Notorious, a band you heard even though you didn’t know you heard them. In their early forms, they performed under the Neville Sounds name: Art Neville (keyboards), brothers Aaron and Cyril, George Porter Jr. (bass), Leo Nocentelli (guitar) and Ziggy Modeliste (drums). When Aaron and Cyril left, the quartet became Allen Toussaint’s house band at Sansu Studios by day and through the New Orleans club circuit at night. It’s always fascinating when a band releases two albums nearby, especially in the same year, and especially if the two albums are a first and a so-called second effort. There are those who say you write your first book or make your first album your whole life. may everything that you have experienced before the point of creation overflow and pour into that first creation. Thus, making any second effort more difficult, with a sometimes shorter timeline, a shallower well of inspiration, and so on. But there are times when it feels like an artist is saying, “Well, no. I’m still taming the overflow, and I’ve learned to do it better than the first time. , and I can’t wait to show it to you.
Meters’ self-titled debut album was released in May 1969 and was led by their opening track, “Cissy Strut,” which was refined for a few years as the band’s opening song. While debuts have their shining moments, they don’t suffer (and barely suffer) from what many great debuts suffer: an attempt to prove it all at once. Counters wanted to demonstrate the band’s total ability, to show off their immense abilities to navigate the second-line sound of New Orleans and their lack of selfishness, a band so tight that its members were not afraid to sacrifice time for a other member can chase a melody.
Their second shot, Look-Ka Py Py, was released seven months later, before the year dropped its last piece of sand in the hourglass. And here’s where the Meters miracle blossomed: The band that was on stage tearing the Ivanhoe apart night after night found a way to become that same band on record. It is in a way the opposite effect, their first album without pressure, imaginary or real. The longest song on the album is three minutes and 18 seconds long, and the others barely exceed 2:45, each unfolding in what feels like effortless jam sessions, where the band try to follow each other on a quest to find a shared sound revelation, then when it’s found the song ends. Take “Funky Miracle”, one of the few songs that doesn’t end in a fade out, but rather ends in a collision. Modeliste’s drums hit the rest of the group, then came to a sudden stop. Silence before the exit. It’s the equivalent of a nod, a gesture. We did it, through the beautiful mess of sound we found ourselves.
The album is best defined by Modeliste and Neville’s tug of war. On an album without a spoken language, the language is born elsewhere. Instrumental gestures, silences, two sounds that overlap again and again. Counters do it all of course Look-Ka Py Py, but Neville and Modeliste make the latter the best. They spend most of “Little Old Money Maker” trying to outdo each other in small bursts while Nocentelli mediates, getting his efficient and measured guitar licks between delicious grappling. This interaction works best when the two are heading to a separate room, where they can be the most adventurous. “This Is My Last Affair” opens – as most tracks on the album do – with Modelist announcing his entry, but then Neville takes over and flies away for nearly three full minutes.
The Meters were an adventurous band, obsessed with collective sound rather than individual accolades. George Porter Jr. is one of the greatest bassists to ever live, and what makes him great is his little-known work. Each group of more than two people should have one member who is at least happy enough to do what they are doing, doing it like no one else, and doing it for the greater good without showing off too much. It’s easy to point to songs on Look-Ka Py Py where group members can show off. “The Mob” sees Nocentelli floundering at the front of the line, for example. But Porter’s work is still there, underneath everything else. Another testimony to the fullness of this perfect record, a fullness as spectacular as it is labyrinthine. If there’s one album worth losing and strolling around, this is it.
Lately I’ve been thinking about this idea of working for the greater good, even if it means people don’t know you by name, by your voice, by any aesthetic. In some ways, the Meters are still what they were in 1969. They’re famous far beyond New Orleans, of course. But it’s still a group that some people have certainly heard without knowing it. At a party a few years ago, a DJ flipped Cameo’s “Rigor mortis”In the Meters song“ Rigor Mortis ”(admittedly an exciting time for me, in particular) and as that last hit its last 30 seconds, there were a few people I was with who did what I’m doing. sometimes. The I know this song… but I don’t know this song ”gesture that occurs when a series of familiar but unfamiliar sounds descends.
To say that this is in part because the Meters were first and foremost an instrumental group seems too easy. But maybe the real thing I’m trying to unlock is what happens when a band is so good and precise, they make music that serves as an effective backdrop for everything and everything. ‘no matter what. The meters are so good that they can blend in with the atmosphere; they can become air. This too is a miracle, a miracle which does not make the group forgettable in any form. In fact, it ties them to that old New Orleans story of a people, otherwise bound by their tortuous obligations to a land they did not choose to be on, seeking a way to transform the world as it is. ‘they knew him for a couple. hours every Sunday. Until, by their movement, by their sound creation, this corner becomes a new corner. This is where the sound resonated until it was the only sound.
One of my favorite samples, of all time, is Amerie’s “1 thing», Which borrows from Look-Ka Py Py song “Oh, Calcutta!” – the nine seconds from 1:41 to 1:50 in the track. Amerie’s song breaks and loops those nine seconds and repeats them over and over again to create a rhythm that never gets exhausting and never feels stale. During the brief second of the loop where Modelist’s drums vanish, I find myself panicking, impatient for them to return, like a child watching his beloved parent cover his face with both hands.
There is some chagrin in the way the counters were sampled and in the amount of samples, particularly in the late 1980s and early 1990s. “Cissy Strut” alone has been sampled 71 times. . The 1970s were even more familiar.Song of hands applause, with its repetitive song of Clap your hands now people are clapping now being sampled in 92 different songs. They have never been properly credited or compensated for some of these uses. In a 2008 interview, Gary Porter mentioned that the group had been sampled over 140 times, and only about two-thirds of those were properly paid, in processes that took years.
And so, the miracle of the Meters is also the miracle of restraint. It’s not just there in the length of the songs themselves, but also knowing that every movement in every song could be stretched into an epic, and choosing, instead, to offer a little window into a moment. dazzling, then move on. to something else. That the legacy of the Meters is a lot of things, but basically I think they are a group invested in wonder, in exuberance. In the deliciously childish kind of fear, of finding a miracle on every street corner, and therefore of forever seeking new corners.
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