Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, Algernon, DM Stith | Empty Bottle | Rock, Pop, Etc, International | Chicago Reader

Occidental Brothers Dance Band International, Algernon, DM Stith

When: Fri., April 17 2009

In its early days the Occidental Brothers Dance Band International played mostly covers of vintage African highlife and soukous, but this Chicago combo has moved beyond that kind of slightly fetishistic homage—now its repertoire is packed with original material. The group’s emphasis naturally shifted toward highlife when Ghanaian expats Kofi Cromwell (vocals and trumpet) and Daniel Asamoah (percussion) joined a few years ago, and it’s since emerged as a strong live act that can get all sorts of crowds on their feet. Each member seems comfortable carving out his own space, a development that allows guitarist and bandleader Nathaniel Braddock and saxophonist Greg Ward to shine—rather than clinging too carefully to the conventions of an adopted genre, they let their backgrounds in post-rock and jazz flavor their playing. OBDBI has attracted lots of attention for the cover of New Order’s “Bizarre Love Triangle” on its new second album, the self-released Odo Sanbra (Braddock says the tune follows a chord progression popular in a kind of Ghanaian highlife called sikyi), but to my ears it’s the record’s weakest moment—even transplanted into a new style, it’s just a crappy, cloying song. Cromwell had never heard it before, so his vocal performance is mercifully free of self-conscious gimmickry, but I still like the band a lot better when it sticks to its own stuff. Algernon and DM Stith open. —Peter Margasak

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