Lunar Drive All Together Here

I’ll admit to being pretty dubious about Lunar Drive when I opened this CD. Native American poetry spoken over hip-hop beats, techno incorporating Native drumming, chanting and other vocal styles: it sounded like a concept dreamed up by the editorial board of the Utne Reader and calculated to be every bit as drearily well-intentioned. All Together Here, Lunar Drive’s second album, soon won me over, though, with its unassuming, confident blend of the above elements, a blend whose organicism is all the more remarkable for the fact that none of the band’s ever-shifting personnel live even remotely close to each other. Singer/producer/songwriter Sandy Hoover doesn’t even live in the U.S. anymore, but she lived for a time on a Southern Colorado reservation; it was there several years ago and at a neighbouring Navajo reservation where she became attuned to the affinities between Native American musical forms and the dance music she was starting to make. Of course, electronic music has appropriated a good deal of Native culture, from the shamanism alluded to in trance music and rave culture to the insistent kick drum of techno. Lunar Drive perform a re-appropriation: Native singers bringing their vocal traditions and song structures to bear on electronic music. "We’re trying to see what happens when you connect different musical forms in different contexts," Hoover explains. "On one hand, it’s to show what techno can sound like when it’s more song-based, and on the other, it’s trying to show what Native melodies sound like with Western harmonies. And it’s also trying to say that it’s just music, it’s just melody without all the hang-ups of ‘world music’ — we’re trying to get beyond a point where collaborating with Native musicians just means sampling Native singing." In so doing, Lunar Drive shrewdly steer clear one of the dodgiest trappings of self-consciously world music: the new age fetishism of indigenous cultures that idealises those cultural practices into abstractions rather than playing off the intersections between traditions old and new. All Together Here is a meshing of several living sounds at once. "There’s a double burden placed on Native Americans — they’re supposed to be either mystics or shoplifters. So when you get to music, a lot of people think you just add Native singing to get instant spirituality, but we avoid any of those new age spiritual overtones. The guys in this band have a foot in the native world, but they also listen to techno, hip-hop, country, whatever. For them, our music is about reflecting their own music back to the kids in the reservation in a modern context." (Beggars Banquet)