Boomkat Product Review:
It makes sense that Mark Ernestus's investigations into the grain and grammar of rhythm have led him to Senegal - where Mbalax, an ecstatic fusion of Western music styles and traditional Senegalese drum music (sabar), has been flourishing since the 1970s.
Hard-grooving, hypnotic, fiendishly swung - and with an instrumental palette comprised largely of talking-drums and sequencer-like marimba synths - it's easy to understand why it appeals to both the technical and intuitive sides of the Basic Channel/Rhythm & Sound don's brain, whose burgeoning interest in Africa has already yielded the Shangaan Electro comp and remixes of Konono No.1 and Tony Allen.
Having privately obsessed over mbalax for years, in 2011 Ernestus travelled to Senegal and the Gambia in search of original recordings, and ended up working at the legendary Dakar studio Xippi with 20 of the country's finest musicians, where they cut a bunch of zinging collaborative tracks. Some of these have already been issued on 12", and are now compiled on one disc for your convenience, all the better to drink in the dense, sense-deranging polyrhythms, which at times recall the Shangaan stuff in their insane quasi-techno interplay but are slower, saltier, earthier.
The African musicians are bang on it, effortlessly incorporating Afro-Cubanismo, hard funk-rock and high-life influences into their intoxicating sabar brew, but almost needless to say it's Ernestus's midas touch behind the mixing desk - and the attention he pays to bass, space and layering - that makes these sessions so incendiary, absorbing and unlike anything you've heard before.