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There has been a compelling trajectory at work since J.J. Whitefield’s Karl Hector & the Malcouns issued 2008’s Sahara Swing. It articulated Whitefield’s lifelong love of sounds from the African Diaspora that include Ebo Taylor’s slippery guitar funk, Zamrock, Malian blues, and disco-fied Nigerian Afrobeat. Six years later, the Malcouns dug deeper on Unstraight Ahead by exploring the Ethio jazz of Mulatu Astatke, Hailu Mergia, and Getatchew Mekuria, soldered onto the German band’s love of Krautrock and trancey psychedelia as exemplified by countrymen Can, Agitation Free, and Tomorrow’s Gift. Non Ex Orbis, issued more than a decade after their debut, finds the band traveling further afield without losing their way. This eight-track set engages the experimentalism of krautrock as it meets classic German prog influences such as Amon Düül, Popol Vuh, and Embryo, and dark, trippy analog funk. Woven in are an eclectic mix of trance, analog synth, interlocking Afrobeat grooves, and ghostly, dark mercurial psych.
The lineup on Non Ex Orbis includes Whitefield on guitars and vintage Prodigy, a monosynth from Moog, founding Malcouns’ drummer and second guitarist Zdenko Curulija, bassist Al Markovic, synthesist Andreas Kainz, and vocalist, organist, and vibraphonist Marja Burchard, daughter of Embryo founder Christian Burchard. The title-track opener showcases the intersection of staccato, stop-and-start prog and beat-driven funky psych. Introduced by Burchard’s wordless vocal, its knotty guitars offer an angular theme before the Prodigy, an ARP, and organ reach flanged guitars and a whomping bassline that pump out massive psychedelic funk. “Crawling Through Your Mind” comes out of the gate with a funky drum shuffle extrapolated onto a droney soundscape with Robin Trower-esque guitar vamp (à la “Bridge of Sighs”), a fragmented melodic idea, and a wandering bassline that draws the listener down into a sonic vortex. “Hymnin5,” is jazz-prog fusion with drifting vibraphone solos, pulsing organs that alternate between vamp and fractured melody lines, a galloping bass, and Whitefield’s sitar-esque electric guitar. “Stossgebet” employs Krautrock and skeletal psych with Burchard offering a single syllable as the tune’s vocal, while the bass, effects-laden guitar, and Afrobeat drum kit delve deep into spidery funk. A Return to Forever-esque arpegiattic synth solo adds a spacious, hard-grooving fusion element as well. “Mother Seletta” is anchored by Burchard’s vocals and Krautrock; Whitefield’s use of Fela Kuti’s rhythmic invention and Embryo’s textured drift — colored by stinging, distorted, Hendrix-ian guitars and punchy organ — create a multi-dimensional foundation that breaks the mold. Closer “Dekagon” straddles Krautrock and space age dub in a steamy, nightmarish union that results in aural hypnosis. While not as exotic as its predecessors, Non Ex Orbis is in many ways the most satisfying Malcouns’ album because it channels its influences in a more natural articulation of ideas and inner space grooves. Tune in, turn on, and dance.