Six Degrees certainly has the knack for world-beat fusions. How do they do it? By knowing their audience for one, which is somewhere between clubland and outdoor summer festival. Then they bring in new sources. Indian and Middle Eastern they've already conquered. Now, with Electric Gypsyland, it's Rom music. How do they do it?
First, they contract with Crammed Records. Second, Crammed centers in on a specific range of Rom music, namely the big-band Slavic style that the world at large discovered when Taraf de Haidouks stormed the street in Latcho Drom. Electric Gypsyland starts out, via that Taraf and Gypsy-fusion pioneers Bucovina Club, with what is probably my favorite track on the CD, "Carolina," which blurs the lines between Rom and ragga and was a highpoint on Six Degrees' recent mix CD Ethnomixicology. Then the horns seem to take over, and oddly it seems that the fusion works because Rom horns sound like a sort of off-kilter Skatalites, a comparison that is most obvious on Señor Coconut's "Usti, Usti Baba." But it gets more interesting than that. The fusion models diversify considerably, from DJ Dolores' Rom-meets-Brazilian-batucada to Juryman's "electro-jazz" (think Cinematic Orchestra) to the dubbish track by Bigga Bush. By the time we reach Arto Lindsay's contribution, Rom music has been almost completely deconstructed. The travelogue is prevented from spinning off-world by field-recording interludes that actually add to the mix quality of the CD instead of being gratuitous. Only the "bonus tracks"--when the fusion finally succumbs to the cliches of House and the Afrocelt system of world-beat--distract from the CD's well-defined yet continually evolving vibe.
Six Degrees knows that they have a good thing. Luckily, Electric Gyspyland proves that they aren't satisfied with previous success. Props for taking us to a place that even world-beat fans haven't been before.