Release Date: Sep 29, 2017
Record label: XL
Genre(s): Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock
To hear “Deathless,” from Ibeyi’s second album, Ash, is to be thrust headlong into the fearful memory of a young woman of color and feel that cold grip as instantly as she did six years ago. “He said, he said/You’re not clean/You might deal/All the same with that skin,” sings Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, one half of Ibeyi’s sister act, of the police officer who arrested her in France when she was 16. He had assumed she was a dealer or drug addict; he handled her harshly, shouted obscenities in her face, and took her purse. There are creases in Díaz’s high jazz trill here, well-worn trails of dismay; other songs on Ash suggest the past year has deepened them.
Ash is the crumbling residue that remains after the fire has perished, starved of oxygen or fuel to burn: the final stage of the combustion process. It implies a sense a of conclusion, the sobering end to the chaos, evoking listless decay, loss and hopelessness. It should then come as little surprise that Ibeyi's new album Ash brazenly confronts the 2016 US Presidential election.
Rather than dwelling on the negative connotations, Ibeyi concentrate on the positive, healing qualities that resonate - as they mention themselves “Ashes can fertilize, there’s still hope.” This message of positivity, strength and optimism is one that is weaved throughout each track on their new album Ash. Ibeyi have been known for their electronic-soul sounds ever since the release of their self-titled debut in 2015. Their introduction to the world was an experimental ode to family, friends and to each other. Again, Ash is an album that tackles difficult ideas and themes, but in the hands of Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz these sometimes hard to express feelings are worn as badges of pride as they sing songs of love and defiance.
The second album from French-Cuban twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz updates the themes and techniques of their modern-ancient music, which refracts African-Cuban roots through a 21st-century digital prism. Deathless, a gripping account of Lisa’s wrongful, racially-motivated arrest at 16, features a sax line from Kamasi Washington and – controversially – Auto-Tune. Inspired in part by Beyoncé (Ibeyi figured in Lemonade’s visuals) and in part by present politics, Ash’s girl-positive content is high (No Man Is Big Enough for My Arms, Valé) and its wider messages outward-looking (Away Away).