Actual Fusion & Categorization-defying albums I just like (on Bandcamp & eMusic).

I’ve complained about fusion done badly before for just turning everything into musical mush.  Over the past year I’ve stumbled upon some examples of fusion done well, iMO.

I think these play w/ different styles most intriguingly and wouldn’t try to pigeonhole any whole album definitively.  Some could also be genres unto themselves.  They’re just nicely different, and part of the fun in listening is finding identifiable pieces of styles from rock to jazz to electronica and deciding whether vocals make a particular song “pop” or not (usually not here!).  

As much as overall style, I think mixing unusual instruments in unexpected ways is the key to keep the proceedings from devolving into a bad-tasting smoothie, but of course it’s easy to go overboard with that principle.  Maybe you’ll think some of these could use a few fewer guiros, zithers, and mouth harps.  I love ‘em.

1. “Strata” - Oscilliard (2017).  Bongos, synths, and brass open onto a field of infinite possibility that definitely shouldn’t work or be half as groovy as this expensive LP iTunes calls “Dance” w/ few discernible elements of electronica.  Self-released and expensive, there is no conceivable way this shouldn’t be hot garbage, and yet I could listen again and again, always appreciating something new.  The rhythmic and bass variety alone are truly delightful.  The brass remind me of the oil and water of jazz and ska (and I don’t like ska), but somehow it works.  Unpredictable, crazy, maddening.  Builds to acoustic breaks on a rusty bicycle wheel.  It’s instrumental so I could read to it, but dancing is also a real possibility.  Obscure as heck, but that must change now! 

2. “Solapa” - Carlos Libedinsky (2015).  I can’t tell whether the squeezebox he’s playing on the cover (and presumably throughout this 99-cent EP) is a melodeon or a concertina, but with it front and center I’ve never heard anything else like this mix of world and electronica.  The percussion actually sounds Indian on the first track, and the electronics are probably working on the accordion as well, but the effects are subtle. “Se Oia Fuerte” is indisputably the first vocal accordion drum & bass song I’ve heard.  The overall feel is kinda spacey, passing like a cloud of cyber-tango, but overall it’s quite impossible to categorize.

3. “Mother Shape” - Yusuke Yukuta (2015).  Vocal Japanese folk w/ toy instruments and other playfulness remind me of a much more laid back Shugo Tokumaru.  I’m a sucker for almost anything Japanese left on eMusic and have gotten lucky a few times entering random combinations of letters that appear often in Japanese.  The singing is soft and soothing w/out losing rhythm in a way that only Japanese can do.  He likes to layer “oohs,” “doos,” and Japanese scat vocalization over acoustic guitars.  Winding falsettos aren’t for everyone, but it’ll cleanse the aural palette as well as any noise.

4. “Amber & Topaz” - Sami Abadi (2010).  Neither ambient nor new age tends to have much use for rhythm; too much of it would disqualify something otherwise claiming to be either of those, IMO.  Guitar and strings together with percussion on the second track of this expensive album push it into a world music category, but it’s all still very ethereal in the best way possible.  This is one of only a few examples I can think of to play for my “positive vibes” woo woo relatives but would also be content to listen to myself, probably while reading.  Yogis and meditators who want to spice up their background music, take note of this one.  I hear The Orb in “TEAL,” but it’s followed seamlessly with incredibly light guitars in a direction entirely Abadi’s own in “PRANCE.”  I don’t hear any wind chimes, but that doesn’t mean they’re not in here w/ everything under the sun in an exquisitely subtle mix.

5. “Maleńka” - Dagadana (2010).  A Polish, self-described mix of folk, jazz, and electronica, their actual songs come consistently closer to pop than anything else on this list, though that’s not really saying much.  The female vocalist reminds me of another recent Polish favorite, Pustki.  I couldn’t say which I like more; both have their charms and are listenable through and through while high in variety.  Tango and other dance numbers pop up unexpectedly after unsuspecting build-ups, and the titular music box closer is a sweet, soothing one, with eccentricities like all that preceded.

6. “White Moon” - Blue Midnight (2014).  Sampling this and not knowing what to make of it I was actually more excited than hearing the full album, unfortunately, but this is still a pretty interesting album.  Brass features prominently, as does harmonica, and a majority of songs have vocals, which unfortunately gives the album a feeling of just being a good bar band or somewhat eccentric blues combo at times.  It could be that this is just a blues album, and I haven’t heard enough blues to know these kinds of sounds are allowed in blues.  A vaguely British accent on the fast-delivered vocals over worldly, Middle Eastern-sounding accompaniment on “Basement Song”  (but again, lotsa brass) yields to a folksy chorus that might be about recycling is representative of the scattershot feeling of the album.  You can judge yourself how often the “spacey folk-dub brass fiesta” works ( ).

7.  “All das kind kind war” - Totsouko (2019).  Tired of the usual samples of old soul and R&B over beats?  Apparently based on samples of old Greek music, this might be hip-hop, but there’s so little rapping I’d hesitate to call it that.  Not that there’s a lot of singing either, despite the prevalence of featured vocalists (Onward is the one who raps).  Each track has its own personality, splitting the difference between hip-hop and electronica (not just stand-alone beats), draped in darkness and paranoia, especially the ominous closing section of the final track.  It feels like some kind of didactic sound installation that just happens to be musical.  RIYL Prefuse-73, El-P, DJ Shadow.  Their 2020 release, also a 99-cent EP does not appear to have vocalists; I haven’t sampled it yet, but it’s on the wishlist.

8.  “Jumpcut” - Man Jumping (1985).  Brian Eno called these guys the most important band in the world, and they were awash in critical acclaim, but I only really liked one track on their more electronic follow-up to this one.  Never knew it existed or to find it on late-period eMusic.  A whole lot of experimentation going on here, but I think the tracks hold together a lot better rhythmically.  Bongo drums and jittery patterns are the foundation for dated keyboards and brass that predated acid jazz while also being more complex.  The oldest album I’ve ever recommended here…until the next one.  I’d say this holds up a lot better today than most music of the mid-80s of any style.

9. “Superground” - Sandro Brugnolini (1970).  The whole label Four Flies Srls is chock full of groovy old Italian film soundtracks from when Moogs roamed the cinemascape, so I can’t guarantee this one is the best of the bunch.  No collection is complete w/out some examples of these.  Luke Vibert’s Nuggets are also still available, taking music of the era into maximal impact.  With titles from right out of “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood,” every track on this one seems determined to triangulate targets of cool, groovy, and either mellow or rocking tempos.  Anyone who doesn’t think an acoustic guitar fits with electronics is welcome to be proved wrong.  Electric guitar and organ carry several tracks in conversation.  And anyone who likes electronic elements to be backed by actual percussion instruments will be pleased. 

10.  “Les Sourdes Oreilles” - Cosmic Analog Ensemble (2018).  This one I think from the name is striving to recreate the sound and feeling of the previous entry, and it succeeds with flying colors, right down to whatever pre-retro thing is happening on the cover.  Also fully instrumental.

Rather than reposting repeatedly, here’s my lists of what’s left on eMusic: 

& by my evaluation

& by genre 

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