Inspired by Angolan and West African music, "Balla Balla" and "NGONI" re-establish Africaine 808's energetic fusions of house and regional music like Cape Verdean funaná and Angolan semba. Other songs expand the duo's sound. "Language Of The Bass," which features vocalist Alex Voices, unwinds a slinky, UK funky-esque bassline, over which Voices reminisces about '80s soundsystem culture.
Nomad and Leyers reference New Orleans jazz on "Crawfish Got Soul," which is pushed along by a cello and given flight by horns, flutes and organs that draw the melody in turns. The sense of place that "Crawfish Got Soul" and other tracks summon is deliberate. Basar traces routes flowing from Africa to the deep American south, Brazil and the UK. As Nomad told me over email, the proliferation of the slave trade in these nations and others made the spread of African music and culture possible. Basar doesn't comment on slavery itself, but serves to illustrate these correlations that span oceans and centuries.
It's worth noting, too, that Basar's prevailing mood is celebratory. If you consider how integral songs were to the day-to-day lives of slaves in, say, 18th century Louisiana—as a release, as an expression of self and ancestral tradition, as a coping mechanism—then Basar has as much to say about survival as it does hedonism. Even the downbeat "Ready For Something New" and "Fallen From The Stars" make room for optimism.
Basar only loses its way on the didgeridoo-led ramble of "Yes We Can." The track would sound terrific on a dance floor, but those hypnotic tremors don't fit; Basar is at its best when moving in sudden jolts and sharp polyrhythmic blasts. For all that, it's remarkable that little else feels out of place. The smears of Basic Channel dub on "Nation" are as important to the narrative as the joyous gospel coda of "The Lord Is A Woman," or the prickly balafon melody in "Balla Balla." As a survey of Africa's influence on contemporary dance music, Basar is an inspiring document. As an album, it's every bit as good.
Fri / 19 Feb 2016
01. The Awakening
03. Language Of The Bass feat. Alex Voices
05. Ready For Something New feat. OFRIN
07. Rhythm Is All You Can Dance feat. Dodo N’kishi
08. Crawfish Got Soul
09. Balla Balla
10. Yes We Can
11. Fallen From The Stars feat. Nova
12. The Lord Is A Woman