Ibeyi – Spell 31

A beautiful record that aims for musical transcendence...

‘Spell 31’ is the dynamic third album from the Afro-Cuban, French duo Ibeyi. The ten-track project is a transcendent exploration of the sisters' relationship with their ancestors and their sound is as strongly infused with spirituality as their previous releases have been, for those who know and love their unique style, this album did not come to disappoint.

The album comes seven years after their second album ‘Ash’ – a vulnerable and powerfully political release that was met with high critical acclaim. Laced with snippets of laughter and powerful ruminations on their ancestral connections as a means of understanding the truths of the past and the power of the ancient. ‘Spell 31’ draws inspiration from a collection of profound sources that include The Ancient Egyptian Book of the Dead and Black Flag's iconic punk anthem 'Rise Above'.

With well-placed features including Pa Salieu, Jorja Smith and BERWYN, the project weaves between percussive elements almost effortlessly. This comes as no surprise given their musical lineage, their father being the famed Cuban percussionist Anga Díaz. Ibeyi harmonises in their classic combination of French, Yoruba and English and break open the album with ‘Sangoma’, a magical tune that provides an auditory experience that can only be equated with the sensations of being washed through a river.

‘O Inle’ acts as a short interlude, a brief and unified chant layered over a repetitive drum beat that bridges the gap between the previous track and the next – ‘Made of Gold’, a shiver-inducing hypnotic reflection on their ancestral mythology and its role in self-realisation, accompanied by Pa Salieu channelling vocals that present almost as a battle cry. The duo guide the album through to a more ethereal landscape with ‘Sister 2 Sister’ and ‘Foreign Country’ – acting as an ode to their bond as twin sisters. A welcome lift before diving down into a slightly heavier more pensive melody on ‘Creature’ that carries you away on a melody of flowing choral ensembles.

They hit a raw, compassionate and emotive realm on ‘Tears Are Our Medicine’ stating the power of tears as a purifying release and its necessity in the process of healing. Followed by ‘Lavender & Red Roses’ which sees Ibeyi harmonise with Jorja Smith as they project a radiant synergy over a stripped back beat. Closing out with ‘Los Muertos’, a simple rendition of the artists who have fed their appetite for musical transcendence. Ibeyi has continued to present the bejewelled depths of their spiritual and ancestral heritage with great success; it's clear that their source is not only deeply personal but boundless too.

8/10

Words: Naima Sutton

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