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IBIBIO SOUND MACHINE

Ibibio Sound Machine

Pull The Rope

    Pull the Rope, the new record by Ibibio Sound Machine, casts the Eno Williams and Max Grunhard–led outfit in a new light. The hope, joy, and sexiness of their music remain, but, further honing the edge of their acclaimed 2022 album Electricity, the connection they aim to foster has shifted venues from the sunny buoyancy of a sunlit festival to a sweat-soaked, all-night dance club.

    Williams and Grunhard attribute this shift to a matter of collaborators, recording Pull the Rope with Sheffield-based producer Ross Orton (Arctic Monkeys, M.I.A.) over the course of two weeks. The way the pair wrote songs changed significantly rather than Eno penning lyrics to music generated by Max and company’s jamming, Orton started with Eno and Max writing together before adding the band. With less time in the studio

    and a new way of considering how they built songs, the duo found making decisions about Pull the Rope’s sound quicker and more instinctual than before.

    “Ross is from Sheffield, which has an edgier, more industrial vibe than London,” Grunhard explains. “He hears things differently than us, is more grounded in rave and grungier sounds, and knew when to add drums or push the instrumentation more. It was very different for us, but it lends itself to where Ibibio Sound Machine is going.”

    In melding their songwriting process, Grunhard and Williams have, impossibly, pulled the trick of making Ibibio Sound Machine a tighter band than ever before, building out from their core in a way that highlights the electrifying group of musicians they play with. Rather than recording with the full band in the room, Pull the

    Rope was sculpted, elements added and shaped by Grunhard, Williams, and Orton along the way. As a result, Pull the Rope is a nimble, sleek machine that’s thrilling from the first note of the opening title track, Eno’s otherworldly voice and PK Ambrose’s throbbing bass driving through a kaleidoscopic array of house, post-punk, funk, Afrobeat and disco, bangers and ballads, making an argument for unity that begins on the dancefloor. “We are the places we grew up, the places we’ve been, and the people we’ve met along

    the way,” Williams says. “Hopping around the globe, we’ve found that people are fundamentally the same they’re people. Opposing sides push and pull, but there is an alternative to war, violence, and suffering.”

    Lead single “Got to Be Who U Are” literally globetrots, name checking locales across the world that would feel disparate were it not for how well-traveled they are. Eno growing up in the musical melting pot of the Ibibio region of Nigeria and Max being a conservatory-trained musician from Australia, one could call their meeting in London and formation of Ibibio Sound Machine predestined.

    “Mama Say” and “Let My Yes Be Yes” touch themes of female empowerment. They’re indicative of the band’s depth as they push further into the electronic; “Mama Say” hits notes of electropop while “Let My Yes Be Yes” fuses electro to Afrobeat. Ibibio Sound Machine have always imbued their music with political consciousness, and the light that shines through in Williams’ vocals and voice has never felt more necessary. The sound of Pull the Rope, then, is hope in darkness, bliss in spite of bleakness. Once again, Ibibio Sound Machine are here to provide the soundtrack to the best night of your life, and the better world to come.

    TRACK LISTING

    1. Pull The Rope
    2. Got To Be Who U Are
    3. Fire
    4. Them Say
    5. Political Incorrect
    6. Mama Say
    7. Let My Yes Be Yes
    8. Touch The Ceiling
    9. Far Away
    10. Dance In The Rain

    Even in trying times, “there is no love without electricity.” Electricity is the fourth and most progressive album from Ibibio Sound Machine, and like all good Afrofuturist stories, it begins with an existential crisis. “It’s darker than anything we’ve done previously,” says Eno Williams, the group’s singer. “That’s because it grew out of the turbulence of the past year. It inhabits an edgier world.”

    Electricity was produced by the Grammy Award and Mercury Prize nominated British synthpop group Hot Chip, a collaboration born out of mutual admiration watching each other on festival stages, as well as a shared love of Francis Bebey and Giorgio Moroder. The fruits of their labor reveal a gleaming, supercharged, Afrofuturist blinder. Electricity is the first album Ibibio Sound Machine have made with external producers since the group’s formation in London in 2013 by Williams and saxophonist Max Grunhard. True, 2017’s Uyai featured mixdown guests including Dan Leavers, aka Danalogue, the keyboard jedi in future-jazz trio The Comet Is Coming, but Hot Chip and Ibibio Sound Machine worked together more deeply throughout the process, collaborating fully. Along the way, the team conjured a kaleidoscope of delights that include resonances of Jonzun Crew, Grace Jones, William Onyeabor, Tom Tom Club, Kae Tempest, Keith LeBlanc, The J.B.’s, Jon Hassell’s “Fourth World,” and Bootsy Collins.

    The hook of opener “Protection From Evil” has Williams wielding a massive synth line from Hot Chip’s Al Doyle like a spiritual shield against unspecified, malign forces unspecified because Williams is speaking in tongues. Her lyrics are onomatopoeic: their meaning is defined in her energetic delivery. As Electricity takes off, so do Williams’ words towards a brighter future, alternating between English and Ibibio, sometimes within verses, and propelled by Joseph Amoako’s unabating afrobeat. She digs into this sentiment further on single “All That You Want,” coolly assuring her romantic interest while also requesting reciprocity. Meanwhile, Scott Baylis’ playful Juno synth guides the listener’s feet along the dancefloor.

    Electricity is a deep and seamless realization of Williams’ and Grunhard’s ambitious founding manifesto to combine the singularly rhythmic character of the Ibibio language which Williams spoke growing up in Nigeria with a range of traditional West African music and more modern electronic sounds. While the band enjoys veering further into electronic territory with the help of mutuals like Hot Chip, Grunhard emphasizes, “For us, it’s not just a matter of embracing new technology. What’s key is to keep the music grounded in African roots.” Ibibio Sound Machine best exemplify this on Electricity’s “Freedom.” That track was inspired by the water-drumming rhythms of Cameroon’s Baka women, which in turn fueled its lyrics, which in turn prompted Hot Chip and Ibibio Sound Machine to layer joyfully kinetic electronic counterparts on top in the studio. As the track culminates with the mantra of “rage, hope, cope, soul,” it’s clear that Ibibio Sound Machine have channelled, harnessed, and distilled these words as guiding principles, both for the album and for the turbulent world that awaits it.

    STAFF COMMENTS

    Barry says: I remember buying ISM's self titled album from this very shop around 2014 because it was recommended highly, and it couldn't have been more of a welcome punt. It turns out that they've only gone from strength to strength, and 'Electricity' absolutely shines with the raw groove and scattered influences of the earlier LP's, but with a much more honed sense of rhythm and melody. Absolutely, unsurprisingly brilliant.

    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A
    1. Protection From Evil
    2 .Electricity
    3 .Casio (Yak Nda Nda)
    4. Afo Ken Doko Mien
    SIDE B
    5. All That You Want
    6. Wanna See Your Face Again
    7. 17 18 19
    8. Truth No Lie
    9. Oyoyo

    CD & LP3 Download Bonus:
    10. Something We’ll Remember
    11. Almost Flying
    12. Freedom

    Eno Williams, frontwoman of Ibibio Sound Machine, uses both English and the Nigerian language from which her band’s name is derived for the dazzling new album. Long lauded for jubilant, explosive live shows, Ibibio Sound Machine fully capture that energy on "Doko Mien", the followup to "Uyai". By pulsing the mystic shapes of Williams’ lines through further inventive, glittering collages of genre, Ibibio Sound Machine crack apart the horizon separating cultures, between nature and technology, between joy and pain, between tradition and future. That propensity for duality and paradox seems common in people whose lives span continents. Williams was born in the UK, but grew up in Nigeria, always steeped in her family heritage. She obsessed over West African electronic music, highlife, and the like, but was equally empowered by Western genres such as post-punk, disco, and funk.

    The traditional Ibibio folk tale bobs over the waves of tuned percussion, chunky synth, and pinprick highlife-esque guitar, while Jose Joyette’s drums and Derrick McIntyre’s bass funk groove bring everyone to the dance floor. 'These stories won’t be forgotten. Feel the music: it speaks to everybody,' Williams says. 'We can travel back in time together, while convening on a futuristic, present tense. We hope that we can give people that reason to wake up, that one song to sing and dance and be happy.'

    On their new album, Ibibio Sound Machine provide the perfect companion, ready to digest as much as possible and then further unfurl beauty and hope. They remember and honor the past and charge forward toward the future, all while intensely expanding the present.


    TRACK LISTING

    SIDE A
    I Need You To Be Sweet Like Sugar (Nnge Nte Suka)
    Wanna Come Down
    Tell Me (Doko Mien)
    I Know That You’re Thinking About Me
    I Will Run

    SIDE B
    Just Go Forward (Ka I So)
    She Work Very Hard
    Nyak Mien, Kuka
    Guess We Found A Way

    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?


    TRACK LISTING

    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


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