The Left Arm Of Buddha
Monkey's Affair






Well, what is this? I spot savages, eight of them, hailing from Belgium, playing instruments: it is The Left Arm Of Buddha whose bandleading guitarist and supervising percussionist Michaël Bridoux brings the world a present that is even miniscule and petite by Exotica standards, but a precious stone nonetheless. This powerful artifact has been recorded at a comes in the shape of a 7" vinyl EP called Monkey’s Affair which is officially released on February 22, 2014 at a release party in Belgium and furthermore available to purchase and fully stream at Bandcamp. Harboring three short tracks, the band continues their multiplexed Ska/Latin/Exotica moiré that was first kicked off with their debut Exotica Music And Other Savage Stuff! (2013).


The triptych on Monkey's Affair neither has a common denominator nor harbors an overarching theme in the veins of their debut which is a proclamation of love for the Hope/Crosby movie The Road To Bali (1958), but this is no flaw per se, as the exterior surroundings and limits of a small vinyl disc match the aural endemics which result in well-crafted fleeting visits. Marimba droplets, steamy organs, Latin Honky Tonk-isms and Europe’s dirtiest saxophones all survived their exodus and are now ameliorated by field recordings of animals and ocean waves. The personnel remains the same, with Michaël Bridoux at the helm, saxophonists David Loos and Nicolas Talbot in the spotlight, mallet instrumentalist Damien Delvaux peeking through the underbrush, bassist Christophe Collignon on the verge, pianist-organist Antoine Lafontaine showing a devilish zeal, and classic drummer Nicolas Léonard as well as Latin percussionist Pierrot Delor delivering a tribal juxtaposition. Here is a closer look at the raw flamboyancy of the band’s second official release.


It takes guts to name a work Monkey’s Affair, and this bravery materializes as the eponymous opener which graces the vertiginous tomfoolery of the exotic kind. Welcome to the carnival of the damned, held daily in a jungle of your choice. Shuttling between a Brazilian rain forest pestered by Dixieland airwaves from Salem on the one hand, and a Papua New Guinea kind of brotherly love right in a cooking melting pot of onions and Scotch bonnets, Monkey’s Affair erects a bold, almost audaciously vivacious jungle panopticon of Damien Delvaux’s lush marimba droplets, dioramic Chinese gongs, screaming chimps as well as David Loos’ and Nicolas Talbot's accentuating saxophone protrusions whose dirty glints feel like apish expectorations. Gyrating between a bustling Merengue and a sun-kissed Mambo fanfaronade, the lunacy finds its interim climax with the inclusion of organist Antoine Lafontaine’s polyphonic glissando rivulets. The first title of the EP is deliberately overproduced, firing on all cylinders, functioning as a broadening vestibule to a venomous vaudeville. This show will never be considered Broadway-worthy, but what it lacks in manners, it delivers in brutish friends. Paradoxically rotatory in lieu of being dreamily rectilineal, The Left Arm Of Buddha’s callisthenics mean madness and mad meanness.


After the verdured jungle fades out and becomes anything but a chlorotic apparition, it is time to flip the vinyl and move to side B. Arabian Calypso is next on the agenda, and those listeners who fondly remember its Tartarean counterpart Arabian Twist off the band’s aforementioned debut EP will rub their hands in anticipation. Instead of ophidian snake charmer melodies, the octet now ventures into saffron-colored mirages by focusing yet again on a marimbalicious base frame. Nicolas Léonard’s orderly drum undercurrent encapsulates vestiges of portent which remain staggering enough to drive the inebriated gestalt of the arrangement and nurture the stolid allure of the setting, all the while two certain saxophonists unchain their bucolic-brazen horns amid saltatory Latin piano spirals. The rhythm is hard to describe and inherits that stop-and-go motion without ever succumbing to the breakbeat formula of the 80’s. The band may give the rhythm and style away in the title – it’s a Calypso, stupid! – but I rather think of it as a belly dancer serenade taking place in a desert-like landscape. The Caribbean spirit is kept at a low flame anyway, the mercurial marimba mirth and Pierrot Delor’s large-grained maraca fizzles notwithstanding, and so Arabian Calypso unites both a faux-Middle Eastern adventureland with a lush island surrounded by crystalline turquoise water and grafts that Latin spirit onto the rich alluvial stratum of sand.


The final delightful galimafré comes in the shape of Coco Serenade, steals 90 seconds of your lifetime… and feels like a shangri-la after the tachycardia-causing events of side A and the dusty synergy that is Arabian Calypso. It is hard to believe that this dreamy phantasmagoria of auroral languor derives from the same recording session, let alone is spawned by the same collective. But here it is, The Left Arm Of Buddha’s modern take on Hawaiiana. Hapa Haole helixes supercharged with steel guitar sinews, sweeping maraca carpets, a field recording of chirping birds and ocean waves, uvular ukulele undulations and clever amounts of reverb altogether create a strikingly high-plasticity pipe dream of that paradisiac island. It is as if the band’s Road To Bali snippet off 2013’s Jungle Tiger finally rings true in this piece: "Could it be paradise without girls?" No coquette appears in this heterodyned frequency mélange, but the insouciance of the stringed airflow, the laissez-faire mentality of the depiction, and last but not least the cavalcade of gossamer quiescence can only lead to these questions: has the tiger lost its teeth? Has the band jumped the shark? Has the savage become noble? If all of these things were the case, I would not mind at all, for this final countermovement only adds another – albeit silkened – splinter in the zestful zoetrope that is The Left Arm Of Buddha.


Coco Serenade may serve as a Hawaiian dénouement from Belgium, but don’t let those guys fool you: The Left Arm Of Buddha have not lost anything of their raucously scything edge, they just decided to venture into a cautiously mild-mannered state for a brief and ephemeral moment. It is an exotic trap after all, caused by a voodoo curse. The listener might perceive this final track as soothing, but might already be deliriously situated in a cooking pot surrounded by savages. The main attraction of Monkey’s Affair as a whole lies in its polyvalent appearance which is more heterodox than streamlined. The sound quality has improved dramatically thanks to the Pum Pum Hotel, but the skilled interdependence between the band members remains the same. Michaël Bridoux’s octet knows how to create soundscapes that are curiously wadded in feisty textures, yet lofty or even lacunar enough to let the instrument’s afterglow fathom the nothingness, be it the natural reverb of the virtual location (a paradox!) or one that is caused by post-processing.


Whereas side A lives up to the tonga tohubohu that was their wild debut Exotica Music And Other Savage Stuff! and bewilders by design thanks to the alloy of screaming apes and clapping chimps as well as the band’s trademark saxophone dirt, the short EP gets tamer as it progresses, whether you listen to the belly dance open air club Arabian Calypso in the desert or the steel guitar-driven out-of-body-experience près de Oahu aka Coco Serenade. My wish has been fulfilled: not only does this short artifact seamlessly connect to The Left Arm Of Buddha’s eclectic style, it does also feature more marimba power than ever. Granted, Monkey’s Affair does not want to be interpreted as the holy grail, as it is too short and jagged for being perceived as a cohesive opus exoticum, but it is undoubtedly vivid and another nice – physically available – gesture on the road to the debut album.


Further listening and reading:

  • You can purchase and fully stream the album at Bandcamp. 
  • Follow The Left Arm Of Buddha on Twitter: @leftaobuddha.


Exotica Review 318: The Left Arm Of Buddha – Monkey's Affair (2014). Originally published on Feb. 22, 2014 at