After far too long we’re happy to report that the purveyors of pure groove otherwise known as Ibibio Sound Machine have returned – and they’re clutching an impressive sophomore effort. Anyone lucky enough to have caught Ibibio’s live shows, or got stuck into their hip-shaking 2014 debut, knows what a unique talent the group are. For the uninitiated however we strongly suspect that you may be missing a slice of futuristic, post-punk spotted, afro-funk in you life. More’s the pity.
Fronted by the fantastic Eno Williams, the band utilise their multi-instrumental skill set to effortlessly combine Nigerian disco with more contemporary electronic influences. While their self-titled debut leant more on these Nigerian roots, ‘Uyai’ is notably darker in tone and more ambitious in production. Point in case is how the band drop a pure Numan-esque synth line over explosive opener ‘Give Me A Reason’. Ballsy it may be, but stagnation is the enemy of creativity and it’s great to hear such well-balanced experimentation.
The solemn ‘Quiet’ is another example of the group’s growth, the track’s sparse guitar line accompanied by ghostly percussive touches and some of William’s most impassioned vocals. The band’s party vibes may be infectious as you like, but it’s in the shadows where you’ll find real depth. However, some numbers are more successful than others, and this is mainly due to a sense of sonic imbalance. Despite possessing a swaggering bassline Simon Gallup could have written, mid album point ‘Joy’ as an example grows far too busy for its own good, instruments clashing left and right to the point of distraction.
Still, this is a small gripe from a band who are currently producing some of the freshest noise around, and they do leave things on a high note. The penultimate ‘Cry (Eyet)’ gently elevates the listener to an ethereal plain before dropping them into mischievous finisher ‘Trance Dance’, a suitably raucous end which reminds the listener that despite the band’s thoughtful themes of empowerment and women’s rights they’re first and foremost gonna get you moving. Largely ‘Uyai’ stands as a genre meshing oddity which, thanks to its pure groove and spirituality, will appeal to those who haunt the dance floor as well as their own dimly lit bedrooms.
Words: Sam Walker-Smart
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