[14 July 2008]
PopMatters Contributing Editor
Cut from the same cloth as Fela Kuti and the psychedelic sounds of West Africa in early ‘70s, the sophomore album from Martin Perna (original member of the Dap Kings and Antibalas) and Grupo Fantasma’s Adrian Quesada is literally Afrobeat funk gold. Throughout The Alchemist Manifesto, a wide selection of strings, horns, vintage keyboards, and percussive sounds enrich the many flutes of Perna and the can’t-keep-it-down funk guitar prowess of Quesada to a point of being indistinguishable from the legendary forces that influenced the album into existence. Both Ocote Soul Sounds and Quesada are accomplished multi-instrumentalists, and the guest appearances on these jams constitutes a list that stretches a mile long. This results in a vibrant work in line with a dirtier Herbaliser that sounds as if it was all cut live off the floor, while still being glossed with a kind of frozen analog hum that lends more credence to the record’s early ‘70s soundtrack feel. For my money, The Alchemist Manifesto single-handedly outdoes the entire catalogue of Antibalas and Grupo Fantasma.