One of those acts who very quickly achieved ubiquity after their 2015 debut on XL, Ibeyi are here to make good on the promise of that record with another LP of emotive soultronica. As befits their elevated status, Ash includes guest spots from Kamasi Washington and Chilly Gonzalez, among others. The sisters channel Frank Ocean, James Blake and London Grammar across the dozen tracks here.
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Sisterly duo Ibeyi made something truly fantastic with their self-titled debut for XL, a record of deeply personal and perplexingly filtered electro-pop that revelled in its many subtle complexities. They’re following up on it now with ‘Ash’, which improves on the formula rather than taking any drastic measurements against it; through a mix of weightless pop songs with hidden gravity, they continue down a path of self-exploration together and beyond.
It feels fuller, is all: massive vocal chants sound like they’re acting as Ibeyi’s Greek chorus, holding up their lucid stories on “Deathless” with bold affirmations -- they’re also joined on this track by modern jazz’s most esteemed Kamasi Washington, who weaves melodies and deviating improv on saxophone in a way that adds ten times the intensity to the duo’s sound. “No Man Is Big Enough for my Arms” weaves spoken word samples from Michelle Obama together with bold vocal melodies that trace them, offering a staggering political centerpiece to the record that speaks to feminist visions while maintaining a mix of the group’s French-Cuban drumming and electronic beatwork.
Uh, damn, that was a dense sentence, right? It’s because Ibeyi’s sound is dense. Like many of their musical equals -- James Blake and Frank Ocean certainly feel like touchstones -- it doesn’t seem so when you listen. They get all this across so clearly, so poignantly, that you don’t see the work going on underneath the surface. A track like this is indicative of why ‘Ash’ is replayable -- its details, both thematic and musical, will communicate more and more through time.
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