Friday, August 10, 2007

I'd Buy Anything By...Banco de Gaia

Toby Marks is the man behind Banco de Gaia, and before he ships his frolicsome house music...he puts a BRAIN inside it.

Sure, his songs are often upbeat and catchy, built with crazily-filtered keyboards and complex, slowly evolving sequences. His samples are unusual, carefully integrated, and usually have a "world music" quality to them. It's hard to listen to Banco de Gaia without NEEDING to dance, and his musicianship shines through when, through some bit of low-key subtlety, your arms are suddenly covered with surprised and uncomprehending goosebumps. A key-change? A particular sound? Sheer bliss?

But it's more than that. He'll release a two-CD set about the Chinese government's aggressive settlement in Tibet, with a totally danceable title track built out of chugging trains. Another album might be surprisingly dark and political, or feature twenty-minute concept songs that are almost devoid of rhythm. One track on an album might be full of Pink Floyd-inspired prog rock sax and live drums, while the next could be a dance anthem sung by one of his stable of female vocalists. When you buy a Banco de Gaia CD you don't know exactly what you'll hear.

He has never achieved stardom and has remained on a small label since 1991 (the beginning), so you won't find many actual "music videos" online...but here's "Last Train to Lhasa," one of his bigger hits, in a dramatically shortened form. Banco de Gaia tracks are often beautiful because of the slow evolution of a theme over eight or nine minutes...this one, sadly, has been compressed by about 50%, but you still get the drift.

You also won't find many of his sadder, more thoughtful, or outright tragic songs online, but this one will bring you's "Not in My Name," which pretty much speaks for itself. WARNING: Unpleasant.

Albums to buy: "The Magical Sounds of Banco de Gaia" (for upbeat songs) and "Igizeh" (for extended moments of crushing depression). There are really no albums to avoid, but I'd put "Big Men Cry" into the "fans only" category, since it's unlike most of his other work...and even more fabulous.

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