Ibibio Sound Machine return triumphant with Doko Mien

ibibio sound machine doko mienThe last time we had the not-inconsiderable pleasure of covering Ibibio Sound Machine, we discussed the merits of the London-based 8-piece's approach to fusion. That's the mixture of West African and what we’re going to have to refer to here, for brevity’s sake, as ‘electro party funk’.

Like all the best fusion acts, the elements of Ibibio Sound Machine more than complement one another. They bounce and riff to create a sum that's not necessarily greater than its parts, but can be considered on a level with purer forebears of the genre(s). Unlike some godless monstrosity like peanut butter Marmite.

Ibibio Sound Machione's third album Doko Mien follows 2017’s Uyai, and it's the perfect realisation of the ideas expressed therein. It cuts out some of the flabbier elements of the band's older work, where direct pieces were interspersed with interesting but indulgent quasi-psychedelic touches.

There’s none of that here, as not a beat is wasted; a feat of both artistry and craftspersonship. On Doko Mien the guitar takes a backseat, largely serving a rhythmic function. The meaty bass serves as the engine room of the songs, over which swelling brass adds drama and electronics shimmer and pulse.

The focal point of attention is as-ever singer Eno Williams, who shifts between English and Ibibio (a southern Nigerian language) to play the sonic qualities of either language off one another. Her delivery is sometimes rapid fire, sometimes more languorous – but always compelling.

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Numbers like the title track, “She Work Very Hard” and closer “Basquiat” are barnstorming funk which build up to glorious crescendos and demand repeat listens. In other numbers there’s a sense of au courant Sarf Landan jazz; “I Know That You're Thinking About Me” and "Guess We Found a Way” wouldn’t sound out of place on a smoky 90s dance track. Or we have something like “Nyak Mien”, which puts a distinctly West African sheen on a mixture of squidgy funk (another official genre) and ska.

Of course, part of the reason Ibibio Sound Machine’s fusion is so assuredly realised is that it's built upon organic foundations. Williams was born in the UK and raised in Nigeria, and speaks of being influenced by both worlds.  Beyond her, the band includes a Ghanaian guitarist, a Londoner on bass (whose CV includes gigs with Lionel Richie for heaven’s sake) and a Brazilian percussionist for good measure. Is this where we throw in the ever-important bit about how wonderful it is for the artistic process for influences to come together? Yes. Yes it is that.

Doko Mien represents a group at the peak of their powers. Long may the peak continue.

Released: 22nd March 2019, Merge Records 

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