Charred Mammal Flesh: Exotic Music for BBQ - Waitiki
Rendezvous in Okonkuluku - Waitiki
OK. There's a LOT to like in both these albums, and what little there ISN'T to like can be summed up pretty simply. At a cocktail party, I'd want the music to fade into the background, whereas at a live performance, I'd want a number of virtuoso performances to hold my attention. This definitely has an ambient vibe to it... but for the moment I'll stick with Les Baxter cuz he doesn't demand quite as much listening. Now, that said... I really like these albums... both of them provide a suitable tropical ambience for the artificial tropics that the stupid golfers around the Coachella Valley build in microclimates when they water the hell out of the desert sands during august and september to create an ambience that is supposed to imitate scotland or pebble beach or something... turns the place into a goddamn sauna for 2 months... music like this is good to melt to in that extreme environment.
First, Charred Mammal Flesh. This has it all goin' on. Its a lot like one of those dusty old records you find in a bin and hope it isn't just the pretty cover, martin denny, les baxter, the mystic moods of jackie gleason, esquivel, or all the 60s studio orchestral music like lalo schifrin and oliver nelson. While slightly lo-fi (not so you'd notice unless your stereo is tits) it demonstrates the unmistakable musicality of Randy Wong and his band of rum-snookered collaborators Tim Mayer, Brian O'Neill and Abe Lagrimas Jr.. Horn and flute-led free jazzy anchored by solid percussive sense and massed chanted vocals.
Central to the Waitiki experience? Booze. And Plenty Of It! in large funny shaped containers with umbrellas and shishkabobed fruits and swizzle sticks that say stuff like ONKONKOOKULOO just to fuck with yah a lil' while yer drunk and expecting it to say Okonkuluku. The kind of drinks that make yah want to put on a tiki mask, take off yer sarong and whirl it around yer head while you repeat the catalog of Homer Simpson drunken buffoon noises until you pass out on the beach somewhere. But its OK, cuz yer under the protection of the Spirits of Okonkuluku who are placated by the sacrifice of a watermelon during Waitiki's stage show (and on their first album so be sure you pick it up so that the maztikoloa don't grab you and haul you into the surf or the opposing lane of traffic) No, I'm not going to say drink responsibly, the world is overpopulated enough as is, just don't take anyone out with you.
Covers of Martin Denny and Don Tiki as well as orchestrations by Waitiki make for a wonderful sweltering experience. Shell out yer hard-earned akahi dalas for this and you won't be disappointed. It'll also help fund the massive outlay that Wong and crew put out for higher ditch amplification and recording equipment for their next album Rendezvous in Okonkuluku.
Rendezvous in Okonkuluku is more of the same... but its a lil' less claustrophobic... looser... wider stage spaces or something... cleaner sound... and the experience of lots of live gigging in places as diverse as Honolulu, Berlin, London and Pittsburgh, as well as spots around their home town of Boston. I think the only complaint I have about their sound on this album is their vocals don't have that spacious awesomeness that the old guys managed to capture in massive recording studios for like Capitol records. That's hard to capture though, maybe a good live album will pick that openness up. The acoustics are perfect for the instrumentation though... but the vocals sound mildly cloistered, I'm sure that's something they'll figger out how to beef up in a couple of albums. Soundstages like that don't come cheap, I wouldn't have the first idea of where to go for that kind of recording ambience. Even Capitol records old monster underground studios are getting messed with by neighboring condo-building. A lil' more presence of Mistress Helenini on violinitar and also as their flower-bedecked cover model on this one too. This one has a lil' more of that cocktail party ambience... but they still have that live band focusization (probably because it suits their large live fanbase) that sometimes draws your attention away from the phantasmic babe yer chatting up to their slightly better on stage musical antics. All in all, on a 5 star scale, I'd give their first album a 4.5 and their second album a 4.7. I'm looking forward to hearing their next one too, cuz these folks just keep getting better. A lot of those old guys had 6 or 7 albums under their belt before that one you found in the dusty old bin that blew your mind. Waitiki is just shy of mind-blowing, but they're just getting started... like the first couple of sips of the Paralyzed Polynesian that the waitress just dropped off.