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About Ibibio Sound Machine:
Even in trying times, “there is no love withoutelectricity.” Electricity is the fourth and most progressive album from IbibioSound Machine, and like all good Afrofuturist stories, it begins with anexistential crisis. “It’s darker than anything we’vedone previously,” says Eno Williams, the group’s singer. “That’sbecause it grew out of the turbulence of the past year. It inhabits an edgierworld.”
Electricity was produced by the Grammy Award– and MercuryPrize–nominated British synthpop group Hot Chip, a collaboration born out ofmutual admiration watching each other on festival stages, as well as a sharedlove of Francis Bebey and Giorgio Moroder. The fruits of their labor reveal agleaming, supercharged, Afrofuturist blinder. Electricity is the first albumIbibio Sound Machine have made with external producers since the group’sformation in London in 2013 by Williams and saxophonist Max Grunhard. True,2017’sUyai featured mixdown guests including Dan Leavers, aka Danalogue, the keyboardjedi in future-jazz trio The Comet Is Coming, but Hot Chip and Ibibio Sound Machineworked together more deeply throughout the process, collaborating fully. Alongthe way, the team conjured a kaleidoscope of delights that include resonancesof Jonzun Crew, Grace Jones, William Onyeabor, Tom Tom Club, Kae Tempest, KeithLeBlanc, The J.B.’s, JonHassell’s “Fourth World,” and Bootsy Collins.
The hook of opener “Protection From Evil” has Williamswielding 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 lyricsare onomatopoeic: their meaning is defined in her energetic delivery. AsElectricity takes off, so do Williams’ words towards a brighter future, alternating betweenEnglish and Ibibio, sometimes within verses, and propelled by Joseph Amoako’sunabating afrobeat. She digs into this sentiment further on single “All That You Want,” coolly assuring her romanticinterest 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’sambitious founding manifesto to combine the singularly rhythmic character ofthe Ibibio language—which Williams spoke growing up in Nigeria—with a range oftraditional West African music and more modern electronic sounds. While theband enjoys veering further into electronic territory with the help of mutualslike Hot Chip, Grunhard emphasizes, “For us, it’s not just a matter of embracingnew 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 fueledits lyrics, which in turn prompted Hot Chip and Ibibio Sound Machine to layerjoyfully kinetic electronic counterparts on top in the studio. As the trackculminates with the mantra of “rage, hope, cope, soul,” it’sclear that Ibibio Sound Machine have channeled, harnessed, and distilled thesewords as guiding principles, both for the album and for the turbulent worldthat awaits it.
Ibibio Sound Machine
DJ Therese (WFMU)