The Very Best - MTMTMK - Albums - Reviews - Soundblab

The Very Best - MTMTMK

by Rich Morris Rating:5 Release Date:2012-07-16

Following up their acclaimed 2009 debut of Euro-dance-meets-highlife, Esau Mwamwaya and the wonderfully named Radioclit return with this sophomore effort which mixes club beats with sunny African vibes and the odd, obligatory dubstep wobble. The difference is that whereas Warm Heart of Africa sounded pretty unusual next to the 80s revivalism and landfill indie of 2009, MTMTMK slots pretty comfortably alongside the majority of 'club bangers' currently cluttering up the charts.

Opening track 'Adani' is a complex, tense creation, moving from traditional African instrumentation to slick, chart-friendly dance and then onto edgier, UK bass influenced sounds. It takes it's time unfolding, each section working as a different chapter, and if it doesn't quite make you want to dance in your front room, well, you have to admire the skill evident in its production. The following 'Kondaine', however, is nothing but uncomplicated good-time vibes with clichéd lyrics (""We're walking on water/We're walking on air"). After this comes 'Rumbae', another impressive production-job full of unusual effects and a skeletal rhythm which never quite kicks off. However, its heavily auto-tuned vocals make it feel dated and crass.

Mali superstars Amadou & Mariam turn up on 'Bantu' and somewhat inevitably make it into an album highlight, drawing focus back to traditional sounds. Their choral vocals over distorted guitar, swathed in misty synth, is a scintillating moment where old meets new without either losing something, and without a giant club beat crudely grafted on. Of course, Amadou & Mariam are old hands at this, having worked with Damon Albarn and Santigold. Hopefully, The Very Best took some tips from them for album three.

Newer African sounds are found on 'Come Alive', which injects some kuduro, while 'Mghetto' mixes mbaqanga and dub. Elsewhere, 'Rudeboy' sees Malawian singer Sonye strut his stuff over some heavily processed reggaeton, while 'Yoshua Alikuti' has its way with both glutinous Balearic trance synths and African soul to create a genuinely euphoric sounding moment.

However, while you can admire the skill of this Hackney-based outfit in sourcing and blending so many global styles, it's hard to really feel it. If you found yourself in a carnival, club, parade or the right kind of party, this music might make perfect sense, but then that's true of so much dance. The problem with MTMTMK, and it is a serious one, is that it makes all this diverse stuff sound unpleasantly homogeneous. Various tracks on this album don't just sound like each other, they sound like everything else you hear pumping out of car stereos or tinny phone speakers. And I just can't believe, which so many collaborators lending a hand (Hell, even bloody Mumfords' Winston Marshall turns up on one track!) that that was the plan.

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