I've been a subscriber to Emusic for as long as I've had a broadband connection, and it's been a gateway to so much great new music I would otherwise never get to hear. It's that much easier to try out something purely on the basis of a good review in the Quietus, the Line of Best Fit, Pitchfork or BBC Music - and it was one such review that sent me in the direction of Antibalas's eponymous release. I knew absolutely nothing about them, but those good words and the brief samples of tracks suggested joyous sonic sunshine - and so it proved. If ever there was music to counter the cold dreich greyness of a rainy October in Scotland, this is it.
Track one, Dirty Money (muppety video above), opens with some prime cowbell and righteous organ, before the horns take control, vocals punch the air, and the album doesn't let up from there. (6 tracks over 45 minutes) To these ears it's deliciously reminiscent of the Budos Band's sun-baked grooves, filtered through the African funk of the Ethiopiques compilations. These are upbeat, passionate Afrobeat jams, averaging 7-8 minutes, giving the band space to spread out, sometimes one player taking a turn in the spotlight, jazz-style. The interplay between the musicians is superb, somehow tight and relaxed at the same time.
It all wraps up with the 10 minute Sáré Kon Kon, my highlight of the album. It's incredibly energetic and despite its length not a second is wasted or indulgent. Much like Toy, this is music that sounds like a studio recording but feels live, whoops and hollers in the background as bongos get slammed and the brass blow hard, call and response vocals adding to the mental image of one big party. You can hear the smiles, feel the rhythm, and they're both infectious - if you're not so much as tapping your foot to this as the tempo steps up while the sax goes wiiiiiild and brings the whole shebang to a shrieking climax, check your pulse.