Sublime Frequencies: Omar Souleyman and Group Doueh
Star and Shadow; Newcastle Upon Tyne, UK


Newcastle's premier cult cinema/low-key music venue filled up pretty quickly with people whose perceptions of Sublime Frequencies were probably as uneasy as mine. It's definitely problematic to want to imbue the music with a certain esoteric quality, something that lifts it above some “World Music” compilation state of faraway-ness with manufactured "authenticity." Naturally, the music of this excellent UK tour is just more oblique sounds from unknown places (to me at least). Sun City Girls' Alan Bishop (who also Djed and MC'd between bands) certainly has an ear for it.

Syrian Omar Souleyman interestingly took a turn opening the night with his massively electric colors and hyper-rhythms, adopting an aloofly stoic presence in white tunic dark glasses and red kieffa. The five-piece band maintained a deadpan stoked-ness, too, applying additional percussion and wobbly, wailing melodies to the rhythmic bombardment. Sometimes it almost felt like another whole dancebeat grooving underneath the main staccato sitar, coming off in every direction -- real delirious and vibrant.

Group Doueh were scheduled to perform before Souleyman on all other UK dates, so the reversal tonight seemed a contrast to the enthusiasm of many. Not that it really mattered -- the diverse crowd seemed just as excited for slower-paced rock as schizoid dance rhythms. Group Doueh are from the Western Sahara and have a more live feel, a desert rock kind of vibe: ultra melodic and recalling scorched 70s moments of the likes of James Brown with a dash of Holy Mountain-flavored psych. The performance was massively electric, and even if physically most of the group had a similar steadfastness to Souleyman's, they must've been focusing on transcendence, sometimes feeling like some mutant Jimi Hendrix. Their guitars were highly rhythmic and their tones mostly sunny, leaving a warm glow to the concrete venue.

Not sure if the show was what everyone expected in Newcastle (a city usually skipped by good tours), but it invariably met my high hopes.