Daptone (42 mins)
New Yorkers fan the Afro-beat flames
Founded in 1997 in Brooklyn, Antibalas have become one of the US-based Afro-beat icons and their latest self-titled album proves that they show no signs of letting up. In the five years since their last release, Security (reviewed in #44), the members of Antibalas have been busy, performing for various groups as collaborators and even getting involved in the popular musical, Fela! This is the 12-piece group’s fifth studio album and it’s their tightest. Co-founder and producer Gabriel Roth says ‘Rhythm is what makes a good Afro-beat record… everybody’s rhythm.’ And Antibalas certainly have rhythm on this album. Afro-beat bands can easily get lost in a maze of never-ending grooves, but each of the six tracks on Antibalas is tight and never seems to wander.
Most of the album was recorded live to tape, which only adds to the overall feeling of effortlessness. The monstrous horn section adds the perfect amount of drive over the typical Afro-beat rhythmic guitars and upbeat percussion for a polyrhythmic delight to the senses. The album starts strong with ‘Dirty Money’, leading into the best track, ‘The Ratcatcher’, which is eight minutes of pure, politically-charged Afro-beat funk. The album concludes with the energetic ‘Sáré Kon Kon’, whose lyrics confess that ‘we don’t know where we’re going, but everybody’s running’: it’s the perfect closer for an album that proves why Antibalas remain untouchable as the Afro-beat revival band.
This review originally appeared in Songlines #87 (October 2012) p62.