Album Review: Ibeyi – Ibeyi

There’s been a fair bit of fuss about Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz, known to us as Ibeyi and to some as daughters of famed percussionist Anga Díaz. Their first album, a self-titled affair is out today (February 16th) on the XL label and is a joyous mix of their own roots – the French Cuban twins also take something of the Yoruba tradition from Africa, and mix it with straight up pop, the sort of electronic experimentalism that Bjork deals so heavily and successfully in, along with a pinch of R&B.

After the short introduction of Ellegua, where the girls lay out their earthy but uplifting harmonies bare, ‘Oya’ is, like much of the record, vocal heavy, the girls voices often stark, bare fifths as accompaniment, and little else other than the otherworldly feeling of Bjork hanging over it, until it kicks in, this plodding drum giving it almost a feeling of a work song wearing, as it does, its African and folk influences on its sleeve.

There’s other moments on the album that play with your thoughts, expectations and emotions. Ghost has a more straight up electro pop feel, as it trips carefully along, surrounded by the organised clatter of afro-drums, but it can’t escape some moments of repose, filled by sparkling vocals usually, and Stranger / Lover is almost (only almost though) FKA Twigs like. Perhaps most lovely of all is ‘Singles’. It’s late night, smoky electronic soul that is almost heartstopping in its delivery, as these little shards of jazz shuffle through.

The dark is never far away, and some of the records most emotion driven tracks deal with loss and death. Mama Says deals with the grief the girls mother felt after she was widowed ‘The man is gone, and Mama says / She cannot live without him’ go the words, yearning over this rippling percussive beat and sparce piano, while ‘Think of you’ deals with their own grief.

In addition Yanira was inspired by the death of their older sister, who suffered a fatal stroke appears, thickly scored voices and clapping hands providing much of the musical content. Despite this, it isn’t a dark record, its a beautiful, ambitious and fulfilling record, and will certainly be up there amongst the best records released in 2015.


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