nnnj: Monkey-Straddle
The Agriculture

'Gotta keep it flowing' a voice repeatedly intones in “Close the Loop,” a phrase that generally encapsulates the presiding spirit of Monkey Straddle, the 46-minute debut disc by nnnj (generally pronounced 'inch'). The album's an exotic polyglot stew that straddles multiples genres though its groove emphasis and general sensibility aligns it closest to dub. Bolstered by rich percussion textures (shakers, blocks, congas, tablas) and deep, propulsive bass lines, nnnj's 'world' music touches down in Arabia, Jamaica, Asia, and the US; though a song title like “Fiji Geesus” suggests its pan-global purview, it's the cut's lovely African wooden flute call (whose keening warble resembles a bird cry) that conveys its geographical breadth. Elsewhere, vocal interjections give the warm mix of soul, dub, and hip-hop in “Goop Scoop” a Middle Eastern flavour, African chants and Indian tablas animate “Demeter's Pupil,” and flute and exotic percussion transport “1205‹–›180a” to Eastern climes. Boosted by the taste of ‘70s soul that emerges in its funky guitar figure, the best piece might be the bumping “Close the Loop” though the atmospheric electro dub-funk of the title song impresses too. Ultimately, the set's twelve outings are more atmospheric grooves than songs, yet what sparkling, textured grooves they are; though “Überamkin,” for example, might amount to little more than buoyant soul-dub rhythms, it's ravishing nonetheless.

August 2005