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Mambo Nassau

Lizzy Mercier Descloux

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Album Review

Out in some alternate universe, where old songs float around in space, there is a bridge that links Talking Heads' "I Zimbra" to the same band's "Born Under Punches." That bridge is formed by nine of the ten songs that make up Mambo Nassau, Lizzy Mercier Descloux's second solo album. Whether or not Descloux's severe yet foreseeable change in approach had anything to do with Talking Heads' own development is not (widely) known. It is known that she had become inspired by the traditional world music released on France's Ocora label, and in 1980 she took drummer Bill Perry down to Nassau to record at Compass Point, where she was aided by a number of people, including keyboard wiz, arranger, and — ding ding! — future Talking Heads associate Wally Badarou. The intent was to incorporate African elements into Descloux's existing vibrant mix of arty funk, disco, and film music, and the result was an album that nearly rivals just about any other rhythmically inventive release that came from the rock world at the time. Naturally, Mambo Nassau is even more adventurous than Press Color. The instrumental setup — with the exception of some of the percussion — is completely Western and rock-oriented, with Badarou's excitable synthesizer often figuring prominently, whether churning out squiggled melodies or affecting the mood of the song with sensitive accents. The interplay between all of the instruments is positively acrobatic, including off-kilter time-keeping, wriggling guitars, and plump basslines that seem to twist in place. And, of course, there's Descloux's voice at the center of it all, adding even more life to the material with infectious wide-eyed exuberance. Eight of the album's ten songs are originals. Once you hear the cover of Kool & the Gang's "Funky Stuff," you'll realize that no one has ever had as much fun as Descloux had playing that song.

Biography

Born: 1956 in Paris, France

Genre: Alternative

Years Active: '70s, '80s, '90s, '00s

Lizzy Mercier Descloux was a pioneering force in avant-garde rock and in the worldbeat genre, chalking up significant achievements in the latter field well before it existed. Tremendously precocious in an artistic sense, Mercier Descloux dropped out of art studies in order to co-manage a punk boutique and record store in Paris with future ZE Records executive Michel Esteban. In 1975 Mercier Descloux first visited New York City and fell right in with the no wave scene, becoming close friends with...
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Mambo Nassau, Lizzy Mercier Descloux
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