Martin Denny, Arthur Lyman, Les Baxter, Yma Sumac, Bas Sheva, Korla Pandit — the gods and goddesses of midcentury exotica music have all gone to their eternal reward, but not before leaving us with a copious catalogue of Tiki tunage. With this genre, familiarity breeds content: we could listen to Denny’s “Afrodesia,” to take just one example, until the canoes come home.
A new generation of exotica musicians apparently feels the same way; retro-minded stylists such as the conservatory trained jazzbos Waitiki, the Esquivel-obsessed Mr. Ho’s Orchestrotica, and the hyperkinetic Tikiyaki Orchestra all create neo-exotica music that not only celebrates the work of their idols, but often tops it.
The current queen of Oceanic easy listening is a former punk rocker from Holland named Truus. Her new CD, Ritualis, goes beyond the mythopoetic rhythms of her previous releases, Muzotica and Rancho Exotica. Way beyond. How to describe its soothing yet unsettling sound? Its hypnoxotic, entropical air of zombacious Melanesiancholy?
Ritualis is a dream of mysterious things that go bump in the Jungian night, conjuring ancient tribal tones from our collective unconscious and freighting them with lyrics full of modern longing for primitive passion. In other words, it’s music to Mai Tai by.