Ibeyi: Ash

- With any introduction to Ibeyi comes a few cultural and historical markers that are necessary to know when enjoying the duo’s distinct sound. For those who are new here, Ibeyi is a twin act of French-Cuban sisters that take instruction from Afro-cuban religion Santeria, and it’s roots in West African Yoruba culture. Their self-titled debut in 2015 that acted as a requiem for their late father and sister, is a stark and compelling collection of songs crafted simply and effectively through the combination of percussion, piano and their complimentary vocal harmonies. It is now, after capturing great attention with their debut that they offer up their sophomore Ash.

Not nearly as sombre as their debut, Ash is a far more uplifting experience. From the opening release in I Carried This For Years, the album is reassuring with the return of the electro-acoustic percussion, sonorous harmonies and its captivatingly modern flair. What’s notable about Ash is its openness, it sounds larger, lighter and stronger. There is a greater richness to the layering of vocals and otrrften becomes rather choral. Its multi-vocal power compels like that of gospel and through tracks like DeathlessNo Man Is Big Enough For My Arms and Transmission; the sense of fellowship and spirituality is quite potent. It almost transcends the realm of popular song and becomes something more akin to Alice Coltrane’s World Spirituality Classics that was released earlier this year.

Harnessing such contemporary power is fortified by the album’s collaborators. Producer and label boss, Richard Russell’s deft use of the studio, discreetly adds punch with samples and electronic kits without undermining the acoustic resonance. Further collaborations with jazz great Kamasi Washington, neo-soul artist Meshell Ndegeocello and Spanish MC Mala Rodriguez elevates the album's significance when addressing racism, womanhood and death. The extent of this wisdom and diversity fosters a gravity similar to Solange’s A Seat At The Table.

As much as I have immersed myself in this album, I do sense that there is a greater depth to it. Like I said, there are key cultural frameworks that are important to acknowledge when listening to Ibeyi, and if you’re one to delve deeply, then you may dig up something from West Africa which adds a new level to this emphatic soul album.

- NJR.


Album Details

Album Title: Ash
Artist: Ibeyi
Record Label: (XL / Remote Control)