|Personnel: Shawn Lee (guitarron, bouzouki, charango, sitar, tanpura, vibraphone, balafon, xylophone, talking drum, castanets, kalimba, steel drum); Andy Ross (flute, saxophone); Dom Glover (trumpet).
|More often than not, Shawn Lee's Ping Pong Orchestra is indeed the work of one man, a producer and DJ who also happens to be a gifted multi-instrumentalist. World of Funk showcases Lee playing instruments from all over the globe, including sitar, ektar, balaphone, Tanpura, kalimba, steel drum, Guitarron, Moroccan castanets, cithare, vibraphone, xylophone, bulbul tarang, charango, bouzouki, talking drum, and udu. He also enlists a host of vocalists and instrumentalists to assist him in this international brew of sound library music, breaks, and global funkadelica. "Ghost in the Rain" features Clutchy Hopkins on drums, electric piano, and distortion guitar, and Dengue Fever vocalist Chhom Nimol. Lee arranged the cut, laid down bass, organ, and atmospheres that wed Southeast Asian folk music to blaxploitation soundtrack moves and retro-sounding psych. On the overdriven bass and rhythm MPB funk blowout, "Nao Vacila," with Brazilian vocalist Curumin, Lee does his best Rio version of James Brown. Natacha Atlas contributes her powerful voice to "Cairo Cairo," which weds hand percussion, nasty fuzzed-out basslines, big horns, Middle Eastern violins, loads of loops, and analog synth sounds. On "The Mighty Atlas," her voice soars above fuzz-drenched guitars, kit and hand drums, Arab pop, and aggressive hard rock. Trumpeter Michael Leonhart assists on the Mulatu Astatke-inspired modern African jazz that is "Ethio," and the moodier Bollywood-esque jazz-funk of "Booya," with help from Stuart Boogie on clarinet. NOMO's Elliot Bergman brings his electric kalimba to the break-driven "Iceberg," which contains a synth bass as nasty as anything by P-Funk. Lee decorates all of these songs with his wide array of instruments and textures. The final three cuts, "Accelerate," "Tablacadabra," and "Hairy Krishner," all display Lee's proficiency on his chosen array of international instruments, as well as Western Farfisa organs, bass, guitar, drum kits, and his producer skills adding sampled voices and loops to provide some of the roughest grooves on the album. World of Funk is exactly what it claims to be: a joyride across the globe through rhythm consciousness and exotica; it is one of Lee's most ambitious projects to date. ~ Thom Jurek