Album Review: Dowdelin – ‘Lanmou Lanmou’: Creole rhythms and a Soul-Jazz twist make for the sound of now.

The Breakdown

Caribbean broken beat, Creole afro-futurism and R n' B polish in a 'top of the pile' release
Underdog Records 8.6

It’s been over a couple of years since Lyon located fusionists Dowdelin were last seen bouncing across the WOMAD stage and pulling the horizontal sun soakers up onto their dancing feet. Now comes evidence of renewed activity with their latest album ‘Lanmou Lanmou’, available from 28th January from Underdog Records, and proof that the band have lost none of the fizz and fire that heats their refreshing melt of Creole soul-jazz. If anything the new record shows that the lockdown lull allowed some regrouping and refinement to the Dowdelin blend, taking that allure of contemporary R n’ B and grounding it firmly in Afro- Caribbean rhythmic foundations.

Opening with the album’s title track, ‘Lanmou Lanmou’ kicks off on the front foot with a percussion and rhymes statement of intent. It’s syncopation in action, swept along by Olivya Victorin’s confident vocal smoothly shifting from urgent to sweet, sharp to sultry as the song heats up. With timely keyboard stabs, cabinet juddering bass drops, sax parps and chorus ‘whoops’, there’s a lot happening in the first cut’s three minutes but then everything has a purpose within the pop parameters that Dowdelin set.

Built around the original partnership of Martinique singer/songwriter Victorin and multi-instrumentalist/producer, David Kiledjian, the band really found their groove when French-Guadalopean sax-playing percussionist, Raphaël Philibert and more recently drummer Greg Bourdas made the tour bus just a little more snug. What has developed, besides the obvious rhythmic possibilities, is a fluid sound fed by the tidal flow from the French Antilles. Those currents provide ‘Lanmou Lanmou’ with an identity that helps it rise above the constant wash of ‘world fusion’ records.

Take ‘Tan Nou’ as a starter. The song may pass for a bumping contemporary hot–stepper but it’s the crisp discipline of Caribbean ballroom swing that provides the real velocity. Add in a punchy electro bassline, almost Cuban piano vamps plus the deep register vocals urging us to make a stand and you know this is more than your average four to the floor. Then there’s ‘Shadow On The Wall’ where the sound of steel pan drums wrap around Victorin’s soulful delivery to hit a perfect balance with the Dowdelin’s naturally muscular R n’ B. Perhaps the most impressive re-imagining of the band’s rootsy influences comes as the waves of shuffle and shimmy percussion play switch back with some thrusting house chords on ‘Mama We’. Here for extra funkiness Vaudou Game’s Peter Solo slides in with some raspy vocal asides as the song scales up to a level of Spacebomb nu-soul lushness.

By keeping things economic and tightly focused on momentum, ‘Lanmou Lanmou’ leaves little room for slack in its tidy sub 30 minute turnaround, but that doesn’t mean Dowdelin have no room for surprises. Just when it’s needed ‘Yo We’ drops things back to a relaxed mid-tempo with Victorin sensitively unfolding a Creole-jazz ballad as the hand drums patter and saxes swoon. That’s followed by ‘Somebody New’ a slick slice of ragga-soul sustenance where any subtlety lost in the vocal layers and inevitable auto-tune is more than redeemed by the gorgeous melody, loose rhythms and authentic Timmy Thomas keyboard chug.

To complete the circle Dowdelin strip things back to percussion and voice for ‘On Nou Ale’, the album closer. Delivered camp fire style with a gentle bass drum pulse and overtones of the spiritual, it’s a well- judged de-compressor to round off the action. As the unison vocals fade in the echo and the handclaps get distant, the ‘Lanmou Lanmou’ transmission ends… until you turn it over and start again that is. Yes Dowdelin have made that sort of infectious record, clever, catchy and bristling with ideas, brimful of soul and positive vibes, carefully crafted but remaining buoyant. Wherever you file it, global fusion, Creole Afro-futurism, Caribbean broken beat, it’s a record that will stay close to the top of the pile.

Get your copy of Dowdelin’s ‘Lanmou Lanmou’ from your nearest independent record store or order direct from Underdog Records at:

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