Ibibio Sound Machine’s first record, which introduced mainstream dance music to the language and folk culture of the Ibibio people of southwest Nigeria, was rightly lauded for it’s colourful and entertaining fusion of afrobreat with live band electronics. Compared to their scintillating new album however, it sounds like a dry run.
Eno Williams and crew up the ante on all fronts for Uyai; the percussion races forward while the arrangements are busier and more ambitious, each tune twisting and turning through rhythm changes and back-to-back riffs like a living thing. The few English words on the record indicate both its range and desire to probe states of peak emotion. There is Joy (Idaresit), a bluster of exuberant drum fills and Hendrix whammy, and there is Cry (Eyet), which highlights Williams’ gorgeous yearning harmonies; there is both The Chant (Iquo Isang) and a Lullaby.
Give Me a Reason opens like a firecracker and just keeps going, propelled ever forward by Gary Numan-esque synths and William’s ecstatic shouts. One by one, it introduces the sounds that comprise the record’s brimming sonic palette, like the spunky highlife guitar, the horns that hit like bursting piñatas and the infectious layered percussion, a cybernetic mixture of acoustic and programmed drums that brings to mind the likes of Caribou and LCD Soundsystem. The band flirt with straight up techno to great effect on Sunray (Eyio), go ambient with a little less aplomb on Quiet and even fit in some more conventional excursions like Power of 3’s funky cowbell shuffle.
Let’s hope Williams can forgive our bad pronunciation, because we’ll still be singing along with Ibibio for months to come.
Listen to: Give Me a Reason, Lullaby
Buy Uyai on CD and vinyl via Norman Records