Release Date: Sep 2, 2014
Record label: DFA
Genre(s): R&B, Pop/Rock, Alternative/Indie Rock, Alternative Pop/Rock
Born in London, teethed in Sudan, raised in Utah and schooled in Brooklyn, Ahmed Gallab has as much right as anyone to attempt a global style of pop music. That he does it so well, and apparently effortlessly, is what makes his band Sinkane's second album so exciting. It begins with synths, the common thread in 2012 debut Mars, and the key instrument for bands like Yeasayer and Caribou, with whom Gallab served his apprenticeship.
As expansive as his influences are, Ahmed Gallab sure knows how to reel it in. Running the gamut from afro-jazz and country soul to Blaxploitation and funk-pop, you could excuse Sinkane's new album for being a messy smorgasbord of sounds and ideas, yet no excuses are necessary. Mean Love, Sinkane's third full-length and second release on DFA Records, manages to create a sense of romanticism without ever being overtly emotional, with straightforward lyrics that somehow remain affecting.
Sudanese born Ahmed Gallab’s fourth album as Sinkane plucks from several continents and decades, emerging as a triumphant mix of vintage soul perfection and modern experimentation. On ‘New Name’, African rhythms are a bedrock for cascading synths, punchy brass and soft vocals. The title track is a ’60s croon, bittersweet and heavy with nostalgia.
Ahmed Gallab’s versatility makes a lot of sense given the diversity of his youth. The Sinkane singer and multi-instrumentalist was born in London, lived in Sudan until he was five, and then crossed the Atlantic only to move from Boston to Utah and onto Ohio; he now lives in Brooklyn. Accordingly, his musical pedigree includes genres as different as hardcore punk, Krautrock, Pharoah Sanders-inspired spiritual jazz, and the soul-funk-etcetera hybrid he’s perfecting now.
Ahmed Gallab has spent the last six years slowly refining and reducing the scope of his music. When the Sudanese sometimes-session musician started on his own as Sinkane, his work resembled the rustling, windswept breeze of post-rock—2008 debut Color Voice and the following year’s self-titled effort could’ve been easily mistaken for the sprawling instrumental work coming out of Chicago in the late ‘90s. But as he vacuumed up more sonic influences, the music contracted.
Born in Sudan, raised in Ohio, and relocated to Brooklyn, Ahmed Gallab spent time as an auxiliary drummer/musician with bigger-name indie acts such as Caribou and Eleanor Friedberger while always working on Sinkane, more or less his solo project and an outlet for limitless exploration of various genres, influences, and unlikely sonic combinations. Mean Love is the third album from Sinkane, following in the eclectic footsteps of 2012's Mars. Also released on the seminal dance-punk imprint DFA, Mars ran through a variety of musical appropriations, meshing heavily borrowed Fela-esque Afro-beat and '70s funk with the indie psych sensibilities of bands Gallab had been affiliated with, like Yeasayer.
Ahmed Gallab is a musical nomad. On his fourth album, the London-born musician (best known as Sinkane) braids Afro-pop arrangements, Tropicália percussion, dub rhythms, country pedal steel and his understated R&B voice into a technicolor knot. Gallab doesn't stick genres into songs so much as he inhabits each one, however briefly: He finds numbing love above a Hammond organ on ''Hold Tight'' and lounges underneath funk horns on ''How We Be'').
To ensure authenticity, an artist’s music should be a natural sublimation of their sphere of experience. But, as Ahmed Gallab - aka Sinkane - would attest, it’s often further complicated as life’s not a level playing field. Born in Sudan, his college professor parents sought refuge in the US when he was six and an itinerant upbringing saw him settle in Ohio at 18 having soaked up a variegated Western musical diet, fascinated with jazz as much as electronica.
To a large degree, the last year in music has been about the triumph of the smooth. Of course, smooth never went away. Within major label R&B, it’s always been a valuable currency, from Luther Vandross to R. Kelly to D’Angelo to Mario to Trey Songz. But smooth has been big in a different way ….
Brooklyn's Ahmed Gallab has been many things – a multi-instrumental Yeasayer and Caribou collaborator, the band leader in the recent William Onyeabor revival tour, and a recording artist in his own right, now on a couture indie-dance label. Mean Love is his second album. Its sound is a result of interplay of all his intersections: groove pop full of psychedelic repetition and sinuous inflections from his family's native Sudan and elsewhere.
Sinkane is the stage name of Ahmed Gallab, a Sudan-born, America-raised multi-instrumentalist who recently served as the musical director for a series of concerts based on the music of Nigerian synth-funk pioneer William Onyeabor. The melodies on his previous album, Mars, drifted through psyched-out polyrhythmic soundscapes encompassing everything from Afrobeat and free jazz to Krautrock. Mean Love goes in the opposite direction, putting his myriad influences to work in tightly structured and nostalgic pop songs.
Ahmed Gallab’s influences have finally coalesced. The Sudanese musician known as Sinkane is on album number four, following two lengthy, jam-centric records (2008’s Color Voice and 2009’s self-titled LP) and one pop break-out (2012’s Mars). Now that he’s gotten those works out of his system, Gallab is free to experiment. And while Mean Love is his most experimental album to date, it’s also his most precise.
Effortlessly knitting together elements of funk, soul and left-field electronics, Sudanese born and American raised musician Sinkane brings forth an album awash with cherry-picked cultural influence and cathartic lyrics of life’s twists and turns. The silky-voiced man behind the moniker, Ahmed Gallab, is experienced in nifty electronics as well as the traditional aspects that run throughout his songwriting, having earned musical stripes performing as a session musician with the likes of Caribou, Yeasayer and Of Montreal. Famous people are no stranger to Sinkane’s work, with Damon Albarn, Blood Orange, Hot Chip and LCD Soundsystem all having previously collaborated with him whilst he oversaw the role of musical director for tribute show ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor - an event which perhaps brought Sinkane’s American release of Mean Love to be handled via James Murphy’s label and electro-beat breeding ground, DFA Records.