Ibibio Sound Machine, Ibibio Sound Machine

Victoria Segal

By Victoria Segal

on 03.17.14 in Reviews
Creating dancefloor chemistry very seriously

The brainwave of production trio Max Grunhard, Leon Brichard and Benji Bouton, the London-based collective Ibibio Sound Machine also includes Ghanaian guitarist Alfred “Kari” Bannerman and acclaimed Brazilian percussionist Anselmo Netto. It is the addition of British-Nigerian singer Eno Williams that gives this debut such an irresistibly authoritative voice, however, a distinctive focal point in a dizzying whirl of sound. Singing in a mixture of English and Ibibio, a language of Southern Nigeria, Williams alternately cajoles, seduces, enchants and upbraids, coolly in charge as the band’s afro-electro synthesis builds behind her. There are moments of calm within the party-minded storm — the meditative opener “Voice of the Bird (Uyio Inuen),” the “Amazing Grace” lift of “Ibibio Spiritual” — but this record’s main concern is creating dancefloor chemistry, and it does so very seriously. The post-rock simmer of “Uwa The Peacock (Eki Ko Inuen Uwa)” and the psychedelic heat of “The Tortoise (Nsaha Dem Ikit)” ignores the predictable in favour of the surprise synth shift or guitar flicker, while the propulsive percussion and deadpan brass of “Let’s Dance (Yak Inek Unek)” rule over the fun without ever breaking a sweat. It’s a record in complete control of itself — and by the end, its audience, too.