My name is Andy Boyd. I’m one of the many behind-the-scenes off-air personalities who work at KEXP (although you may have heard my voice on the “Hmm, what’s this button do?” -> whirring blender sound KEXP station ID). I’m the Production Department machine elf who is responsible for stitching together the weekly Song of The Day, Music That Matters, and Live at KEXP podcasts and stuffing them through a series of tubes out onto the internets.
My Top Ten List for 2008 is drawn from my favorite live in-studio performances of the year, and you can hear all of them on the KEXP Live Performances Archive.
To begin, a series of four stunning performances of music from around the world:
1. Debashish Bhattacharya 4/19/2008: Hindustani slide guitar virtuoso Pandit Debashish Bhattacharya is one of only a handful of Indian musicians who have adapted this most popular of western instruments to the classical music traditions of India. Here with his brother Subhasish Bhattacharya on tabla, he demonstrates his incredible command of the nuances of pitch and rhythm in a stunning display of slide guitar mastery.
2. Occidental Brothers Dance Band International 7/18/2008: Chicago’s Occidental Brothers Dance Band International is a multi-racial and bi-continental afro-pop ensemble bringing jazz-trained and rock schooled American musicians together with Ghanaian musicians in a spot-on cross-cultural throw down blending Central and West African styles that is guaranteed to get your booty in motion. Recorded live on KEXP at Engine Studios in Chicago.
3. Mamadou Diabate 9/22/2008: Mamadou Diabate carries on the West African traditions of the griot or jeli as they’re known to his people the Mande in Mali. It’s the jeli’s job to keep traditions going with the use of storytelling, both orally and musically. Diabate’s medium is the 21-string harp known as the kora. Give a listen to this mesmerizing live KEXP performance and see why he’s considered a master.
4. Mawungira Enharira 5/19/2008: Mawungira Enharira is a group of gwenyambiras (or master mbira players) that perform the traditional sounds of their native Zimbabwe. This live set from KEXP’s Best Ambiance showcases their lively and entrancing sounds.
Although in general my tastes run toward instrumental music, the following three sessions feature the use of the human voice as an instrument of transcendent beauty and are each deeply moving in their own way.
5. Shearwater 7/24/2008 (performance not available): Join Shearwater for an absolutely stunning live radio set that features tracks from the album “Rook.” The uniquely-instrumented indie-folk sounds lay the perfect background for the beautiful falsetto vocals of Jonathan Meiburg which mainly focus on the natural world.
6. Pretty Good Dance Moves 7/17/2008: Brooklyn-via-Chicago trio Pretty Good Dance Moves bring on the swanky electro-pop grooves featuring the exceptional vocal talent of Genevieve Schatz. Needless to say, pretty good is an understatement. Beautiful stuff.
7. School of Seven Bells 11/25/2008: Stripped down to acoustic guitars and keyboard, Ben Curtis’ (ex-Secret Machines) School of Seven Bells perform a luminous set of songs featuring the preternaturally euphonious vocal harmonies of twin sisters Claudia and Alejandra Deheza.
Rounding out the list, a a trio of mesmerizing sessions featuring artists from the crespuscular and dank Pacific Northwest, ranging from stoner drone-rock to dark-ambient bliss.
8. Black Mountain 2/1/2008: Vancouver B.C. buds Black Mountain, lead by Stephen McBean, create quite a buzz with their heady brew of languid vocals and acoustic guitar strumming, fuzzy lead guitar licks, synth stabs, tribal hand drums, and mellotron.
9. Earth 4/12/2008: Originally formed in Olympia, Earth dwell in the meeting place of dynamics and texture. Step into their world for a live set of droning, reverberating rock originals.
10. The Sight Below 9/20/2008: Anonymous Seattle ambient techno artist The Sight Below makes his live radio debut on KEXP’s Audioasis.
Finally, a most honorable mention and domo arigato must go to number one Japanese Instrumental Band making rare U.S. radio appearance at KEXP in 2008.
11. The Surf Coasters 9/5/2008: They may not know English, but these guys sure speak the language of wicked, reverb-heavy instrumentals. Japa’s toughest surf band rips up the KEXP live room with some ferocious versions during Shake The Shack. Don’t miss a rare chance to dig The Surf Coasters live!