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Antibalas: Security

by Ami Kealoha in Culture on 16 February 2007

Antibalassecurity

Security is the first ever Afrobeat soundtrack. Irreverent, hip, rough, political, moody and soulful, it's like an afro-funkier Curtis Mayfield score for a Blacksploitation film that only exists in the mind of the listener. As told by Brooklyn’s twelve-member Antibalas Afrobeat Orchestra, the story unfolds like a hypnotic trance.

With a new record label (the coincidentally named ANTI-Records) and new producer John McEntire (Tortoise, Stereolab), Antibalas is breaking new ground with Security, their fifth and most experimental studio album in their ten year career. The new record is a clear turning point for the band. Staunch Afrobeat traditionalists may be disappointed by its lack of Fela Kuti worship. But with Security, Antibalas has made that transition that all true artists must make when transcending the limits of their genre to create something exciting and new. Incorporating diverse musical influences—from free jazz to rock—and non-traditional instrumentation, they also experiment with the form itself, adding extended b-sections that take the tunes much further than rhythm breaks and give the album an epic air.

Favorite tracks are difficult to choose on an album that is a pleasure from start to finish.

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Security kicks in at full tilt with “Beaten Metal,” an imposing fanfare of horns and cacophonous junkyard percussion over a rock-hard break style beat. It's more marching band jazz-funk-rock than Afrobeat. “Filibuster XXX” is a high-energy up-tempo stomper, and delivers some of the album’s most traditional afrobeatitude, with wailing organ and saxophone solos, punctuated by bursts from the horn section, and the requisite political lyrical content. But it is a bad-ass tune in its own right, no cheap imitation.

From there, it expands outward. Refrains in unison and dense harmony background vocals on “Sanctuary” subtly evoke a late 70s jazz-influenced rock sound like Steely Dan and Chicago and “Hilo” features spooky ice skating rink farfisa organ and canned horns. “War Hero (Guajiro)” bears the old-school Casio-tone style drum pattern mark of Marcos J. Garcia (whose debut solo album on Kindred Spirits (as Chico Mann) is due out concurrently). And “I.C.E.” is reminiscent of Bob James and Creed Taylor’s symphonic 70s collaborations. Security ends poignantly with “Age”, a dirge-like modal jazz that marches slowly toward an optimistic and revelatory finale.

Antibalas says their “goal is to expand Afrobeat as a musical language and to make [their] own original contribution to its legacy.” The best Antibalas album to date, Security is also a noteworthy development in the evolution and revitalization of afrobeat music, and one of the best albums I have heard in 2007, period.

Available 6 March 2007 everywhere, you can pre-order Security from Amazon.

by DJ Scribe

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