The Master Musicians Of Bukkake: “Totem 3”

Not a record I’ve pulled down from the shelves in a while, but this weekend I was inspired to locate a handsome set called “Tibetan Buddhist Rites From The Monasteries Of Bhutan”. The motivation, I guess, was a certain preoccupation with “Totem 3” by The Master Musicians Of Bukkake, and its predecessor “Totem 2”.

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Not a record I’ve pulled down from the shelves in a while, but this weekend I was inspired to locate a handsome set called “Tibetan Buddhist Rites From The Monasteries Of Bhutan”. The motivation, I guess, was a certain preoccupation with “Totem 3” by The Master Musicians Of Bukkake, and its predecessor “Totem 2”.



I first came across the Master Musicians around the time of their “Visible Sign Of The Invisible Order”, a set which made pretty blatant their friendships and affinities with The Sun City Girls. Like that other significant and eclectic band from the Pacific Northwest, the Master Musicians had clearly absorbed and reprocessed – and continue to do so – a vast range of generally ritualistic music from all over the globe. The spirit of the whole endeavour remains, half a decade on, very much of a piece with that of the Sun City Girls, too; at once devotional and irreverent.

The unravelling “Totem” trilogy (full disclosure: I’ve not heard the first part) is dedicated to the Bishop brothers and the late Charles Gocher, and there are a bunch of specific parallels with the last SCG album, “Funeral Mariachi”, not least what I suspect is a newish addition to their exotic portfolio: Touareg blues on “Prophecy Of The White Camel/Namoutarre”. Alan Bishop plays on “Totem 3”.

You get the impression a bunch of Tinariwen albums may have been circulating in the Seattle underground music community of late, since the last Earth album (Randall Dunn produces “Totem 3”) flagged up a connection, too. The Master Musicians are more explicit, though, and more obviously successful at adding a heavy Northwest hum to the snaking blues patterns.

Like “Funeral Mariachi”, too, there’s a stately Morricone trip, in the shape of “6,000 Years Of Darkness”, though much of the album has a cinematic feel, right up to the closing John Carpenter homage of “Failed Future” (the Master Musicians have the candour, incidentally, to reference the Carpenter and Touareg influences in their press notes).

The Tibetan rituals, meanwhile, were provoked by the expansively ominous opener, “Bardo Sidpa”, very much a continuation of “Totem 2” (though the Anatolian/Mediterranean vibes of that set are played down here). As ever with this sort of thing, I feel a faint discomfort when profound spiritual music is appropriated for other purposes, not least a certain subversive otherness. But there’s a seriousness and care with the way the Master Musicians Of Bukkake draw on and deploy such intense music; not for the first time, I can’t help suspecting that the pranksterish titillation of their name doesn’t do their frequently superb music many favours.

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