Ibibio Sound Machine - Doko Mien - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

Ibibio Sound Machine - Doko Mien

by Joseph Majsterski Rating:7 Release Date:2019-03-22
Ibibio Sound Machine - Doko Mien
Ibibio Sound Machine - Doko Mien

Eight-piece ensemble Ibibio Sound Machine formed out of a desire to produce a sort of afrobeat disco fusion. The band is fronted by Nigerian singer Eno Williams, and includes Alfred Kari Bannerman (guitar), Anselmo Netto (percussion), Jose Joyette (drums), Derrick McIntyre (bass), Tony Hayden (trombone, synth), Scott Baylis (trumpet, synth), and Max Grunhard (saxophone, synth), who also produces. The band is named after the native language of the Ibibio people of Nigeria, of which Williams' mother was a member. Doko Mien is the band's third album, and it follows in the path of the first two, seemlessly blending styles with a sense of fun and adventure.

The first three songs of the album are nearly flawless. Opener 'I Need You to be Sweet Like Sugar (Nnge Nte Suka)' starts off with a positively Kraftwerkian synthline, but shortly thereafter the funk shows up, creating a fascinating mashup of styles. Crisp, aggressive guitar work and bright brass balances against the bass and beats nicely. And the hypnotic, slightly off kilter electronic foundation warbles along endlessly in the background. It's pretty damn sexy. 'Wanna Come Down' is a bit more straightline funk, with a bobbing and weaving horn section, lots of ticklish bass, squelchy guitar, and just the faintest hint of a disco ball spinning somewhere overhead. 'Tell Me (Doko Mien)' slides back to the electronic side of things, with a pattering synth driving the music forward and carrying the rhythm and horns along.

The band moves away from the energetic joy of those initial songs with a quieter, lounge-flavored track, 'I Know What You're Thinking About Me', fed by brushed percussion and mellow bass. 'I Will Run' is another quiet piece, but it's short and sweet, and lifted by a brief vocal bloom near its conclusion. In fact, much of the album smooths out in this direction. 'Kuka' sounds like Lauren Hill on the African savanna, with vocalist Eno Williams' soulful singing and tribal drums. 'Guess We Found a Way' is another dreamy, smoky lounge tune running on silky vocals, super chill percussion, and light, tight bass.

Still, plenty of other songs bring the excitement. 'She Work Very Hard' leads with a relentless synth, and features a deep, thrumming bass and Williams' happily bouncing voice. A gritty guitar solo later on followed up by blasts from the horn section add awesome texture. 'Nyak Mien' goes ska with the horns, but the vocals and other instruments pour on the tropical flare. And closer 'Bassquiat' is another fast-moving slab of 70s funk, sauntering down the street with truckloads of attitude.

Personally, I enjoy the high-energy tracks better than the slow ones, but I can't deny the skill with which everything here is crafted. And there's much to be said for a band that successfully merges African funk and disco with more modern electronics. The funkiness is worthy of most bands of the 70s, perhaps even masters like George Clinton. And the flourishes provided by the technology rounds out the sound wonderfully. It's not as weird as one might think, and comes off as very approachable and quite listenable. If nothing else, absolutely check out the first three tracks and see if you want to dig deeper.

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