Published Mar 14, 2014Soundway's made its name as one of the finest reissue labels for fans of unheralded vintage music from Africa and the Tropical Belt. Lately, it's been adding new acts to its roster, such as Chico Mann, KonKoma and Family Atlantica, that embody its universal groove aesthetic. Add to that list London's Ibibio Sound Machine.
Fronted by British-Nigerian vocalist Eno Williams, who sings entirely in Ibibio (the native language of the Ibibio people of South-Eastern Nigeria), this eight-piece rocks an infectious mix of highlife, disco, funk and psychedelic soul. Chances are you're not going to understand Ibibio, nor the Nigerian folk tales that inform the lyrical content, but its all good since Williams is a truly convincing vocal stylist. Save the two haunting, gospel-tinged numbers that bookend the set, any cut could shake a dance floor.
"I'm Running" marries nimble highlife with edgy electronica into a stimulating hip-shaker while bassist Leon Brichard channels his inner-Larry Graham on the Oakland funk by way of London New Wave and Lagos Afrobeat jam "The Talking Fish." "Let's Dance" rocks a propulsive groove that turns the title from a request into a command, and "Woman of Substance" strikes a late-night, almost introspective pulse. There isn't a bad track here, and from the sound of Ibibio Sound Machine, it appears that Soundway is intent on delivering new music every bit as distinguished as its esteemed reissues (Soundway)