Loka: Fire Shepherds
Ninja Tune

Karl Webb and Mark Kyriacou clearly take their time. The Liverpudlian duo made an initial Loka appearance with “My Life's In These Bottles” on the 2000 comp Xen Cuts before reappearing with a 2004 single and now, two years later, with their album debut Fire Shepherds. Ninja Tune's the perfect home for the group's orchestral soul-jazz which may remind some of Chris Bowden though it occasionally references Miles too (e.g., the muted trumpet during the foreboding “Airfling”). Even so, Fire Shepherds largely inhabits a different universe from Agharta's dark voodoo though “Freda Mae” does find Loka flirting with the hazy experimentalism of Davis's “He Loved Him Madly” style (halfway through, “Freda Mae” also references Weather Report's “Boogie Woogie Waltz” from 1973's Sweetnighter). Elsewhere, raw guitar fuzz jumpstarts the surging soul-jazz boogie of “Meet Dad” before wah-wahs spill over the group's orchestral funk. Despite such bold tangents, Loka's wide-screen but rather old-fashioned big-band sound aligns itself more naturally with a kindred ensemble like the Cinematic Orchestra, especially during dynamic settings like the dramatic “Safe Self Tester” and melancholy “Tabernacle 2.” (Note: the disc includes bonus Quicktime videos for “Safe Self Tester” and “Beginningless.”)

April 2006