Music

Ibibio Sound Machine: Uyai

Ibibio Sound Machine's sophomore album is a nonstop block party, bursting with summer soul, retro electronics, and funky Afrobeat.


Ibibio Sound Machine

Uyai

Label: Merge
US Release Date: 2017-03-03
UK Release Date: 2017-03-03
Website
Artist website
Amazon
iTunes

Ibibio Sound Machine makes a remarkable comeback with sophomore album Uyai, taking the modern highlife beats of their eponymous debut album and making them bigger, brighter, and with a thousand times more funk. This album is a non-stop block party, bursting with summer soul and retro electronics. Dance beats go hard, singer Eno Williams lets her softer side show, and the band finds itself fearless in uncharted musical territory as Ibibio goes to the stars.

The group shows miles of growth throughout its newest album. Where Ibibio Sound Machine was fun, a playful mix of electronics, Nigerian folk stories, and simple, powerful rhythms, Uyai has a heavier tread. The band ventures forth with newfound confidence, and it goes a long way. When we last left them, driving rhythms were Ibibio Sound Machine’s greatest strength, and that hasn’t changed; what has is the music around those beats, the now-rich diversity of tempos and styles. Most of the album is brassy, electric dance pop; “Guide U” takes it all the way to the '80s with some truly exuberant synths -- judging by the name and the sounds, it’s got to be at least a passive Prince tribute, and one with the right spirit. “Cry” finishes the album on an entirely different note, a poignant mixture of sorrow and bliss.

In the middle of it all, Ibibio Sound Machine heads off on a journey that takes it farther from highlife than it’s been to date with tracks “Quiet” and “Joy”. “Quiet” is shiver-inducingly beautiful, all echoing guitar and Williams’ poignant storytelling (mostly in the Ibibio language, but with emotion surpassing any linguistic barriers), and glides smoothly into the intergalactic rock of “Joy”. The electronics and horns return on the latter track, an even stronger propulsion system for Williams. Together, the two tracks provide an introspective, melody-focused break from the dance music, but one that still soars, a buoyant, slowly-building ecstasy.

Lead single “The Pot Is on Fire” is catchy and accessible, not ground-breaking but complete with a single-line chorus for crowds to sing along to with gleeful abandon. It feels good, the kind of tune that fills a human body with the irresistible urge to move, and that’s a theme of many of Uyai’s more upbeat tracks. “Give Me a Reason” may be an even stronger dance track, with simple synth lines that sound like Speaking in Tongues-era Talking Heads and energetic staccato shouts -- "Give! Me! A reason!" -- that add fuel to an already blazing fire.

To pack so many Nigerian and Western musical flavors into only 11 tracks is a staggering accomplishment. The heavy electronics of “The Chant” are countered by the lighter, highlife-ready tones of “One That Lights Up”; “Power of 3” is a classic Afrobeat frenzy, while “Lullaby” is cool, breezy, and a little bit new wave. While Ibibio Sound Machine is not afraid to experiment, though, Uyai doesn’t sound like aimless dabbling. What it sounds like is a band that has found its groove and knows how to run with it in any direction it pleases. Ibibio Sound Machine is now in full control of its sound, and it’s that knowledge that allows the group to truly let loose.

9
Music


Books


Film


Television


Recent
Music

"I'm an Audience Member, Playing This Music for Us": An Interview With Keller Williams

Veteran musician Keller Williams discusses his special relationship with the Keels, their third album together, Speed, and what he learned from following the Grateful Dead.

Books

Shintaro Kago's 'Dementia 21' Showcases Surrealist Manga

As much as I admire Shintaro Kago's oddness as a writer, his artistic pen is even sharper (but not without problems) as evident in Dementia 21.

Music

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad Proclaim 'Jazz Is Dead!' Long Live Jazz!

Adrian Younge and Ali Shaheed Muhammad bring their live collaborative efforts with jazz veterans to recorded life with Jazz Is Dead 001, a taste of more music to come.

Film

"I'll See You Later": Repetition and Time in Almodóvar's 'All About My Mother'

There are mythical moments in Almodóvar's All About My Mother. We are meant to register repetition in the story as something wonderfully strange, a connection across the chasm of impossibility.

Music

Electropop's CMON Feel the Noise on 'Confusing Mix of Nations'

Pop duo CMON mix and match contemporary and retro influences to craft the dark dance-pop on Confusing Mix of Nations.

Music

'Harmony' Is About As Bill Frisell As a Bill Frisell Recording Can Be

Bill Frisell's debut on Blue Note Records is a gentle recording featuring a few oddball gems, particularly when he digs into the standard repertoire with Petra Haden's voice out front.

Music

The 50 Best Post-Punk Albums Ever: Part 4, James Chance to the Pop Group

This week we are celebrating the best post-punk albums of all-time and today we have part four with Talking Heads, the Fall, Devo and more.

Music

Raye Zaragoza's "Fight Like a Girl" Shatters the Idea of What Women Can and Can't Do (premiere)

Singer-songwriter and activist Raye Zaragoza's new single, "Fight Like a Girl", is an empowering anthem for intersectional feminism, encouraging resilience amongst all women.

Music

VickiKristinaBarcelona Celebrate Tom Waits on "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" (premiere)

VickiKristinaBarcelona celebrate the singular world of Tom Waits their upcoming debut, Pawn Shop Radio. Hear "I Don't Wanna Grow Up" ahead of tomorrow's single release.

Television

'Everything's Gonna Be Okay' Is  Better Than Okay

The first season of Freeform's Everything's Gonna Be Okay is a funny, big-hearted love letter to family.

Music

Jordan Rakei Breathes New Life Into Soul Music

Jordan Rakei is a restless artistic spirit who brings R&B, jazz, hip-hop, and pop craft into his sumptuous, warm music. Rakei discusses his latest album and new music he's working on that will sound completely different from everything he's done so far.

Reviews
Collapse Expand Reviews

Features
Collapse Expand Features
PM Picks
Collapse Expand Pm Picks

© 1999-2020 PopMatters.com. All rights reserved.
PopMatters is wholly independent, women-owned and operated.