During the political upheavals of the past year-and-a-half, there have been suggestions that the upside will be a glut of new musical activism to enjoy, take solace in, or even be fired up by. Few would have predicted it might sound as beautiful as this.
For their second full-length, Ibeyi returned to the studio with XL head Richard Russell to generate something (the record’s title suggests) from the ashes. More overtly political than the twin sisters’ debut - whether in the police sirens trailing in the background of ‘Away Away’, their mother’s reading of a Frida Kahlo extract during album centrepiece ‘Transmission/Michaelion’, or the samples from a Michelle Obama speech on gender equality on ‘No Man Is Big Enough For My Arms’ - ‘Ash’ serves as a stirring, reflective statement in uncertain times.
Russell’s production throughout is outstanding too. As previously, the interplay between Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi’s voices - singing in English, French, Yoruba and, in a first for the pair, Spanish - is deployed to hypnotic, choral effect; providing a much-needed moment for calm among the storms of today. And as the album closes in the multi-lingual mesh of its title track, written during the 2016 US elections, there remains some meditative sense of hope for a less divided future.
Words: Will Pritchard
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