Beats, Bartering and Brooklyn: The Foreign Exchange Live at Music Hall of Williamsburg
By: Matthew Allen
Phonte “Phontigallo” Coleman and Matthijs “Nicolay” Rook named themselves The Foreign Exchange because they recorded their 2004 debut album, Connected, without ever having met in flesh. This transcontinental changing of hands – forged from their Okayplayer encounters – makes their moniker simple to understand, but there’s much more to the name than that. The exchange of alien musical ideals between the two – Coleman’s North Carolina hip-hop roots as one third of Little Brother, Nicolay’s background as a Dutch electronic music producer – have come to reconcile a form of music that is not easily explained. When they received their first Grammy nomination in 2008 for the song “Daykeeper,” they were classified as Urban/Alternative; a curiously damning and contradictory title, as it combines two terms that are limiting and vague, respectively. Appropriate that such an indescribable band chose Brooklyn as a performance stop. The New York City borough is a terminal where countless cultures, sounds and spirits collide and implode. If their performance at the Music Hall of Williamsburg offered any resolution, The Foreign Exchange (+FE) has to be described as a jazz band. Not jazz in its predictable preconceptions, but rather as an abstract ideal, or a means to an end. The end is to create physical and intellectual rejuvenation for its listeners; the means is to use every melodic and lyrical resource that their mental disc-changer can muster.