‘Got to find a city, find myself a city to live in’ pleaded David Byrne a good while back- well if he’s still looking or fancies a change after his decades of globetrotting then Geneva may be worth a punt. There you will find Bongo Joe records, the forward thinking outer-national label headed up by Cyril Yeterian and one of Europe’s most vibrant global beat scenes.
Enter Amami, a three piece electro-rave bundle, currently rising to the surface of the city’s breaking tide. Their debut EP ‘Giant’ released in 2019 was swooned over by the Swiss music press and prodded the attention of turntablists further afield with its sharp mix of afrobeat, no-wave jazz, euro-disco and electronica. Hard to pin down but harder to ignore Amami was a name to keep on the watch list. Well now with the release of their debut ‘Soleil’, out on Bongo Joe from 27th August, heads are due to be turned once more and heavy rotation seems imminent.
Amami produce an eclectic blanket of sound, woven and cut for the dancefloor, which revolves around the combined imaginations of: Raphael Anker on EVI, percussion and drum machine; Gabriel Ghebrezghi (aka. Ghostape) on vocals plus keys; and Inès Mouzoune providing basslines together with synths. From the off the chunky bhangra beat meets hyprdub stomp of ‘Hollywood Dehli’ sets a foot warming pace with Ghebrezghi’s distinctive high pitched vocal soaring around the mix. It’s an intriguing blend of electro textures determined to keep you tuned in, part rai part euro pop and very much Amami’s original styling.
That freshness and invention constantly leaps out from the energetic selection on ‘Soleil’. ‘Atlas’ bounds along with the relentless power and urgency of full-throttle Acid Arab work outs. Centring on a dramatic synth melody line, driven by double time hand claps and skittering rhythms, the track takes you around the world in hyper-beats. Its percussion break topped with vocal howls and sighs that echo suggestive seventies disco, is just joyous. Then there’s ‘Dangerous Flowers’ where a booming sub bass supports a psychedelic swirl of electronica and spacey phrases to lay down the song’s classic rave agenda, remaining high on vibes and gleefully light on clear meaning.
By the time you get to ‘Sempre Tu’ you begin to wonder how many twists and turns Amami can take but this hybrid MOR balladry introduces bossa and nu- jazz flavours without a misstep. The cut reminds you of the scope of the band’s ambitions. This is electronic world music that is breaking new ground like the very best of those early Congotronics recordings on Crammed Discs.
At times complexity and enjoyment can get to tussle on the record. ‘Mystery’ reveals some intricate moments but after a sumptuous ambient synth wash bumps into jumping dream pop skank, ideas tend to waft loosely around the perpetual machine beat ….maybe it’s a grower. Still, swipe back to the title track ‘Soleil’ and you get a swift reminder of why Amami need to be fussed over. Who else would merge no-wave jazz angles, off kilter post punk dub (The Slits, anyone?) and avant industrial breaks into a coherent and crisp dancehall combination.
So this is a trio that can draw on their cross continental roots and collage of musical influences without falling into the genre or tradition trap. Sometimes swinging to nu-form RnB (‘In the City’), sometimes circling back to etho-funk (‘Fresh’), Amami represent the potential of restless musical minds. Bongo Joe has a track record of unearthing new perspectives on global beat music- the recent Don Melody Club album springs to mind -and on the evidence of ‘Soleil’, Amami can join their label’s roster with confidence and an assurance that they can carve out their own very unique space within it and possibly way beyond.