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Songs from the Silk Road

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Album Review

Tony Marks has recorded under the name Banco de Gaia since 1989, and can plausibly lay claim to being one of the pioneers of worldbeat electronica. Though he comes from the house music tradition (and still often has recourse to the thumping four-on-the-floor rhythmic verities of that genre), his style is sonically expansive and musically catholic, not to say downright promiscuous: to cue up a Banco de Gaia track is to be launched on a musical voyage that may well take you down a Moroccan cobblestone street during the call to prayer, then into a Trench Town reggae studio in Jamaica, then into a flamenco bar, then down a Chinese back alley where an itinerant erhu player sits on a crate playing for change. At his best (the sharply funky "Not in My Name," the gorgeously jungly "Glove Puppet [Dreadzone Remix]"), Marks blends all of these disparate influences with a subtle sense of balance and symmetry, creating music simultaneously funky and elegant. When he's not at his best, things can get just a bit tedious: the live "Last Train to Lhasa" is over 12 minutes of way too little musical content, and the melismatic vocals and quiet funkiness of "Farewell Ferengistan" are pleasant without ever generating much interest. But nothing on this retrospective collection is less than pleasant, and much of it is exceptionally fine.


Formed: Leamington Spa, Warwickshire, Eng

Genre: Electronic

Years Active: '80s, '90s, '00s

Inspired to enter the field of electronic music by Britain's acid house explosion of the late '80s, Toby Marks took quite a different spin on electronica with his recordings as Banco de Gaia, introducing elements of Eastern and Arabic music, sampling similarly exotic sources, and tying the whole to ambient-dub rhythms. Marks began releasing cassette-only albums in the early '90s, distributed through a network of clubs and artists known as Planet Dog. When Planet Dog became a record label as well...
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Songs from the Silk Road, Banco de Gaia
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