Music Reviews

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Artist: Felix Blume
Title: Death in Haiti: Funeral Brass Bands & Sounds from Port au Prince
Format: LP
Label: Discrepant
Funerals and memorials in Haiti are certainly handled in a very different way to how I’m used to as a Brit. Every emotion is clearly worn more openly on the sleeve- both the grieving and the happy memories- and a collection of layered field recordings from a variety of Haitian funeral processions, services and wakes is an extremely emotive experience, but not all of it sad.

The album is built around six live recordings of brass band processions- some of them bright and celebratory, others more conventionally funereal, some quite jazzy. In keeping with the idea that Haitians put more effort into making a remembrance service a more jovial event, some of it is actually good fun.

But it has to be pointed out that there’s lengthy agonised and uncontrolled screaming and wailing here, and some of it is quite rightly difficult to listen to. There are elements more recognisable to Western Europeans- hymnal chanting and spoken-word eulogy snippets. A carnival album, this is not, and the layering up of some of the brass band performances with the gut-wrenching howling of mourning family members is truly macabre and unsettling to my stoic traditions.

The sound recording quality is fantastic- everything has the atmosphere of a crowd underpinning it, but the sonic quality of some of the solo saxophone work is studio-quality and very impressive. It’s a well-produced and nicely constructed work. But unless you’re actively seeking the sound of genuine bitter-sweet grief, whether for entertainment or your own personal catharsis, I’m not sure you’re going to enjoy it, nor should you.



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