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Ibibio Sound Machine finally release their hotly anticipated debut album on the ever brilliant Soundway Records. The self-titled set sees the group effortlessly combine diverse genres with an ease I've not heard since the days of LCD Soundsystem, pulling together elements of West African highlife, disco, post-punk, psychedelic electro soul and nasty ass P-funk. On the squelchy bassed "The Talking Fish" and the 6 Music fave "Let's Dance" and the more traditional highlife cuts "I'm Running", "Uwa The Peacock" and "Woman Of Substance", Ibibio Sound Machine pack the wax with pure effusive energy. Elsewhere, "The Tortoise", "The Talking Fish" and "Prodigal Son" are bursting with raw funk power, with British / Nigerian vocalist Eno Williams in particularly fierce form. Folk stories, recounted to Eno by her family as a child in her mother's South-Eastern Nigerian Ibibio language form the creative lyrical fabric of the album, as can be seen with the natural and proverbial track titles. What I love most about this record is the fact it flows together as an album so well, with a nice progression from highlife to funk and electro disco aided by the excellent musicianship of the players. The album has soul in abundance, bookended as it is by two beautiful spiritual pieces, but will keep the dancefloor just as happy as the congregation. After all, they're pretty much the same aren't they?
Sil says: Fronted by London-born Nigerian singer Eno Williams, Ibibio Sound Machine is a clash of African and electronic elements inspired in equal measure by the golden era of West-African funk and disco and modern post-punk and electro. It is the perfect amalgamation of African beats and electronic atmospheres put together in perfect balance, ready to be loved and danced to.
When we played this in the shop for the first time, we were all happily surprised. The album oozes energy and good feelings throughout, with Williams channeling it all via her unique and compelling voice.
The varied compositions range from the Gregorian chant-like sound found on “Voice Of The Bird (Uyio Inuen)”, to the breathless pace of “I’m Running”, and “Uwa the Peacock (Eki Ko Inuen Uwa)”. “The Talking Fish (Asem Usem Iyak)” exudes funkiness and elements of jazz, while “The Tortoise (Nsaha Edem Ikit)” offers a perfect communion of trumpet and up-tempo African rhythms. “Woman of Substance (Awuwan Itiaba)” – a personal favourite - has catchy dialogues between the guitar and trumpets. In “Prodigal Son (Ayen Ake Feheke)” we find sophisticated use of deep synthy electronica. And last but not least “Got to Move, Got to Get Out! (Ana Nkpong Ana Nwuoro)” reminds me of Michael Brook and Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan’s album “Night Song” on Real World Records with its lingering and moody electronic soundscapes.
There is not one filler on this album - they are all killers that point toward the fact that Soundway is not only committed to its critically-acclaimed reissues, but also to bringing to the forefront new vibrant sounds like the ones on this masterpiece.
A1. Voice Of The Bird (Uyio Inuen)
A2. I'm Running (Nya Fehe)
A3. The Talking Fish (Asem Usem Iyak)
A4. Let’s Dance (Yak Inek Unek)
A5. Uwa The Peacock (Eki Ko Inuen Uwa)
B1. The Tortoise (Nsaha Edem Ikit)
B2. Woman Of Substance (Awuwan Itiaba)
B3. Prodigal Son (Ayen Ake Feheke)
B4. Got To Move, Got To Get Out! (Ana Nkpong Ana Nwuoro)
B5. Ibibio Spiritual