Sally Nyolo and the Original Bands of Yaounde Studio Cameroon

Studio Cameroon is an absorbing listen, with the casual feel of an audio diary but with a consistent and often surreal flow. Sally Nyolo was a member of Zap Mama during the ’90s, and eventually moved back to Cameroon from Europe. This is the fifth of her increasingly diverse solo projects prior to this, and she is mostly in evidence as the organiser and guest vocalist. The "Studio Cameroon” in question was apparently set up in a tin roofed building, which makes it likely that it was portable and digital. The sound is very diverse, rooted in Cameroon’s bikutsi rhythms with plenty of spiky guitar and off-kilter rhythms, but highlife, funk, reggae and plenty of dissonance are on hand. Between the um, distinctive (read: wickedly sharp or flat) vocals and off-centre tunings, there is more than a little edge to what might have been more easy rolling rhythms. "Salaire” by Americain is a happy highlife groove but the nasal flatness of the vocals and ultra jangly guitars push into into alt-country twang, albeit with a fat bottom end. Guitars are another highlight of this album, falling somewhere between no wave and bluegrass. As such, these often sketch-like songs are given intriguingly immodest reverb and delay, with the occasional editing trick like the fade in and out of traffic sounds in the Bidjoi Sisters’ "Chantal.” Sally’s use of rapid, Zap Mama-esque vocalese within many artists’ songs brings another post-modern touch to the record. There is an almost perfect balance between concept and execution here. One wonders how Cameroonian hip-hop would have played out in such a scenario, but what’s here captures an easygoing but experimental sprit of a wide group of musicians around Yaounde and Cameroon. (Riverboat)