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Burning Bridges - "Feast of Fools"

San Diego's Burning Bridges have been honing their multi-ethnic chops for quite a few years, and on Feast of Fools we see them jumping from genre to genre without dropping a beat.

The title tune opens the set with a swooping fretless bass, chattering African guitar and a funky dance beat before dipping into the album's tasty stew of various worldly styles. "If Angels Dare" is an uplifting bit of Zulu jive highlighted by a yearning R&B sax; "Alana" is a marriage of soukous guitars and funky rock drumming; "Airegin Boogie" combines reggae-ized bass lines, wah-wah guitar accents and funky hot-footed drumming for an instrumental that could have come out of a '70's era Blaxploitation flick, and "Mercury Cafe" lays some chunky metallic guitar and power-ballad crooning over a pulsating Moroccan rhythm.

No matter what culture or style the band draws on, the rhythm always stays in the pocket, and the players retain full command of their diverse influences. The Bridges, like many of today's forward looking musicians, are able [to] combine sounds from other cultures and make them their own to forge a new kind of pop that's both American and International.

     - J. Poet, Rhythm Music

Here's how Burning Bridges characterizes a few of its new songs: "A mix of western bikutsi and eastern jit"; "The missing link between juju and disco"; "Inspired by South African mbaqanga."

And here is Burning Bridges' music described in slightly simpler terms: exotic, seductive, infectious.

"World beat" is almost too constrictive a concept to contain this San Diego band's global goulash of rhythms and instrumentation. "Feast of Fools," the veteran group's third album careens from the funk-tastic '70's wah-wah of "Airegin Boogie," to the bouncy Afro-pop of the recurring title theme, to the ominous, almost metalish insistence of "Mercury Cafe," with a pit stop at "I Don't Want To Quit: for a quick dose of Celtic melancholy.

Lead singer/chief songwriter Andrew Vereen sounds a bit like a granola Bowie; his pleasing voice is often paired with the smoky vocals of Cynthia Antillon, further layering Burning Bridges' already rich, dense textures. The lyrics paint humanistic themes with broad strokes, provoking thought rather than proselytizing.

On "Feast of Fools," every new song is a surprise. But the biggest surprise of all is that, after 11 years of making records and touring internationally, Burning Bridges is still waiting to be discovered here at home.

     - James Herbert, The San Diego Union Tribune

Every time I talk to somebody about world music, they immediately assume I'm talking about reggae. Now, there's nothing wrong with reggae or hitting the upbeat hard in general, but there's also some other cool stuff out there. The best CD to come our way here at Lies in 1996 from the world beat section is the Feast of Fools release by Burning Bridges. Just by using world beat as a classification doesn't really do justice to the eclectic style and sound this group puts out. Each member of the sextet has their own influences, and the blend makes for a soothing, fluid album that constantly changes rhythm and beats to keep the listener interested for an hour plus of music. The stylistic choices have a wide range including African, Arabian, Caribbean, Celtic, Western, and even a little blues.

Of course, if you put together a unique interesting sound, it usually means you don't get any support from record companies. Instead of folding up shop, Burning Bridges started up its own label called Accretions. In the beginning, it was a one band label, but this still meant they had creative control over their music. Although the band has been around in some form since 1985, the musical cohesiveness didn't materialize until the early 90's, and the success of Feast of Fools has allowed them to look at other artists. Recently, the label started signing other acts from their home of San Diego.

Barefoot Hockey Goalie (a band with Zappa and hockey tendencies), Marcelo Radulovich (a guy that drifts between funk and ambient), and Go Van Go (a group that plays the mystery jazz) have all signed up on the Accretions label. These signings show that Burning Bridges can not only play, but they're not bad judges of other people's music either.

Currently, they are working in and around San Diego, although the possibility of touring more extensively has not been ruled out. The CD has been picked up for national distribution, so if your favorite music outlet doesn't currently carry it, they can probably get it. The following of this band is small but growing, and they even got put on a sampler at the CMJ convention in New York.

Feast of Fools has been the biggest success for the band, and college radio stations across the country have jumped on the same bandwagon we here at the magazine have been riding--nestled quite nicely on the bumper. As far as the lyrics go, the band chooses mostly topics dealing with nature (both landscape and human). More than anything else, the words fuse well with the rest of the rhythms. The music obviously won't appeal to everyone, but if you crave the reggae, Latin, Mid-eastern, African, or general world music sounds, this CD should find a good home in your collection and add a lot more flavor.

     - Aaron Worley, Lies Magazine

The word that hits me with this band is multiculturalism. This music is a mixture of styles that take from African, Caribbean and western forms of music. The band members hail from all over and their influences are quite evident. With a total of 16 tracks, if you like your rock with a little international flair, these guys can be your tour guide.

     - B. Tucker, ORB Confidential

Who are these feasting fools and why are they burning their bridges? Questions as easily answered as it is to determine what kind of music this bizarre mixture of sound might be. I think I discerned on this album the unmistakable signature of every musical instrument ever played by humankind. This is definitely KBCO music -- "world class rock," whatever the hell they think that means. Some of it reminded me of Paul Simon, insofar as he ripped off music from Ladysmith Black Mambazo, but I like that style, rich in rhythm and texture, so I enjoyed several tracks from this work. There's a lot to appreciate here, if you're willing to make a musical leap of faith and cross on over into some uncharted terrain. Bring your machete and some Bactine, you'll probably make it out okay.

     - Jim Lewis, Pulp

Some people operate under the dumb-ass assumption that world music is an umbrella deal; sit in the shade, sip sugary drinks, and play with a grab bag of musics. That might be true somewhere. Every music has its cliches and tag-along imitators. Burning Bridges is not one of those.

It's one of the more musically eclectic and capable collectives going. Their "world" includes the Afro-Caribbean-Celtic and, although there are obvious differences in these sub-genres (especially, when it comes to rhythms and percussion), the band whistle-stops its way through all of this like well-seasoned musical travelers.

     - Stepjazz Mafazine

It may take you more than one listen to get into the unusual sound of this sextet from San Diego, but it's worth it. In their unique mix of world beat and rock the band excels on guitar driven afro-poppy tunes like "If Angels Dare," "Alana," "Air That I Breathe," Necessaire," and "Welcome to Paradise." On the other hand, the group's more rock-oriented songs, like "Mercury Cafe," "LVIII," and "Airegin Boogie" don't come up short by any means. Also great are harder to categorize "Feast of Fools (Coda)" with its tribal drumming, and the dramatic acoustic guitar instrumental "60 Miles from Mecca." A sleeper band that could really surprise.

     - Mofogi, Texas Beat

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