Release Date: Mar 3, 2017
Record label: Merge
Genre(s): Electronic, Electronica, Club/Dance, International, West African, African Traditions, Afro-Pop, Nigerian
There's a fun yet futile challenge posed by the Ibibio Sound Machine's sophomore LP: Just try to sit still while listening to it. Fronted by British-Nigerian vocal dynamo Eno Williams, the London-based eight-piece's eponymous 2014 release was one of that year's finest debuts. Uyai (meaning 'beauty' in the Nigerian language of Ibibio) builds on its predecessor's invigorating melange of highlife, disco, funk and electronica with even more assured musicality and social consciousness.
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.
World events are such that the early days of 2014 could be 100 years ago now, but for some that period was set alight by the London group Ibibio Sound Machine's self-titled debut album. The eight-piece collision of Nigerian disco-funk and modern Western electro and post-punk erupted from nowhere, armed with an eye-wateringly impressive stockpile of dance floor stormers. So irresistible was the result that it might have been thought impossible to replicate, but on Uyai, not only does the party continue, but it has expanded.
F ronted by British-Nigerian vocalist Eno Williams, the eight-piece band deliver a bold, exhilarating follow-up to their self-titled debut album. Lyrics are sung in part-English, part-Nigerian language Ibibio over a high-spirited mix of afrobeat, electro, rock, funk and disco. Overall the blend of styles is refreshing and well balanced, although on Joy the mishmash of synths and guitar solos sounds crowded.
If you crossed '70s Nigerian highlife with LCD Soundsystem, you might get something like the opening track of Uyai. On "Give Me a Reason," highlife trumpets and talking drums punch through buzzy synth lines and metallic drum machine effects. Like most dance music, it seeks liberation. Unlike most, it also laments: "As the story goes, they got sent to a house of wisdom/To learn all that the world can offer/But on setting out, they got lost," Eno Williams sings in Ibibio, a language of southeast Nigeria.
Following the warm reception of Ibibio Sound Machine's 2014 self-titled debut, the London-based collective unexpectedly signed to American indie rock powerhouse Merge Records for the release of sophomore album Uyai in 2017. With this release, the eight-member group continues its blend of West African rhythms, disco, funk, and electro, adding a bit more post-punk and new wave this time around. Dynamic frontwoman Eno Williams is still the star of the show, and while many of her lyrics (sung in Ibibio and English) are still based on Nigerian folktales, this album is more socially conscious, reflecting on recent events and the general state of the world.
After far too long we're happy to report that the purveyors of pure groove otherwise known as Ibibio Sound Machine have returned - and they're clutching an impressive sophomore effort. Anyone lucky enough to have caught Ibibio's live shows, or got stuck into their hip-shaking 2014 debut, knows what a unique talent the group are. For the uninitiated however we strongly suspect that you may be missing a slice of futuristic, post-punk spotted, afro-funk in you life.