Saturday, January 20, 2007

Review; Antibalas - Security (Anti)

The new Antibalas album is ready for release, although the band seems to be waiting a little longer before sending out their latest missive to the world. The seven tracks on Security run for about 55 minutes. It could perhaps have used a little trimming, at least on some of the slower, more atmospheric tracks on here, but overall this is a strong addition to Antibalas' discography. On their new outing, Antibalas have signed with the Anti-label which teamed them up with producer John McEntire. The 12 piece band spent a month recording the album in Chicago last year, and they continue to live up to their self-designation as an Afrobeat Orchestra. Celebrity producers certainly can't guarantee success no matter how much they change a band's sound to something deemed more accessible. Despite being concerned about Antibalas' sound getting watered down to something like Stereolab with horns, John McEntire let Antibalas do their thing. Some cuts sound a little soft for a 12 piece band that has rocked concert stages everywhere for hours on end, but Antibalas are still pumping out Afrobeat sounds like few bands can. The c.d. is funky, the arrangements spare, and the smoothness comes naturally on Security.
The first track, "Beaten Metal" has a rather symphonic sounding introduction, with a single horn heralding the first movement. The instrumental develops slowly, with the percussion slowly building before the bass and guitar creep in. Keyboard player Victor Axelrod gradually takes over until he duels the horns for space by the end of the tune.
The second song, "Filibuster XXX" finds Amayo singing about typical Antibalas fare, which has a catchy 'tic tack toe' motif, but the Dick Cheney reference will date this song the way Reagan songs characterize so much 1980's punk music.
"Sanctuary" has the band returning to their Fela Kuti-inspired roots, with a brooding introduction featuring a relentless bass line punctuated by blasts of brass. Amayo doesn't start singing for some six minutes, but then belts out the words about heading for the hills. The fourth track does bring us near Stereolab-territory, with its soft, ephemeral arrangement combined with the most subdued vocals on the disc. Antibalas return to the Afrobeat style at which they excel for much of the disc, combining it with the almost classical style horns of "Beaten Metal" on the instrumental "I.C.E." The brooding stops abruptly, and the band kicks back into Afrobeat mode for the last part. The final track "Age" concludes Security on a jazz tip which end the disc on a particularly mellow note for Antibalas.
This c.d. certainly sounds like the band is looking to expand its sonic horizons beyond Afrobeat, funk or the Latin sounds they have been laying down for a few years now. Antibalas live dates later this year should be interesting if they decide to test their more subdued new jams on the road. They have great stamina on stage and can be counted upon to put on an excellent show, so watch for tour dates if you like Fela Kuti-inspired extended Afrobeat jams.

No comments: