Review Summary: Dancing to your tribal fire in the heart of downtown Ibiza.
DJs since time immemorial have been busy doggedly fiddling percussive elements into dance, and for the most part, failing miserably with equal vigor. After all, most of them are just there trying to work a bit of bingo bango into the Clubber Top 40 charts, and frankly, its been just downright insulting to have to buy into the idea that it’s in any
way exotic. But there’s hope yet! Hailing from Lisbon and carrying the dark dust of their deep Angolan roots, Buraka Som Sistema fall into no such trap. Their
sense of fun isn’t derived simply from some ‘AfricanDrum_03’ preset swiped off a random programmable synth, but from a real
sense of intensity that stirs while getting lost within the tribal ecstasy of relentless beats around the blazing flames of jungle clearing bonfire. The best part of course, is that their debut record, Black Diamond
comes off as a decidedly modern record, drenched deep in a mix of unrelenting tech-house and furious urban grime, aimed squarely at the darkest confines of 2AM DJ sets in the beating heart of world club culture. The Buraka crew are well aware of this too, with the album’s sole manifesto “New Africas pt. 1” proclaiming that “Yes. It’s rising. Yes. You are in London. But it feels like Rwanda, or Lisbon. It’s ugly, but embodies the beauty of the pure and raw. It s sexual. Fast. Innocent… And lives by the rules of the now.”
And living up to that promise, Black Diamond
doesn’t allow itself to be carried away on whirlwinds of rhythmic complexity, but for the most past blazes its way on through by laying down a raft of pulsing 4x4 beats crafted for the simple pleasure of the dancefloor. Far from experimental, opener “Lunanda/Lisboa” kicks things off nicely with a taste of Buraka’s penchant for fusing mindnummingly addictive and earthy beats with tension filled undercurrents of electronic swaths, only to pave the way for one the coolest dance tracks in recent memory: Featuring the presence of the culturally effervescent M.I.A. and a boatload of other musical guests, “Sound Of Kuduro” isn’t just a handshake welcome to the genre that the Buraka’s champion, but a literal kick in the face introduction to their Angolan dance influences. With her trademark half-spoken, half-sung delivery of “One drop, two drop, three drop, four/Sound of Kuduro knocking at your door”,
it’s the best of everything that Buraka Som Sistema have on offer and the shiniest diamond here. Follow up “Aqui Para Voces” is also a highlight, featuring Black Diamond
’s most electro inspired song, with a pulsing, distorted, bassline playing partner to Dieize Tigrona’s Carioca Funk roots, as her Spanish spit-rap style round up an bangin' set of album openers.
Interestingly, it’s deep in the heart of Black Diamond
that the Buraka’s manage to explore not just their electronic pedigree, but their mystical side as well. While the excitement level is toned down to some degree, songs like “Kurum” and “Ic19” delve deep into sound bordering on edges of exotic acid-house mixes, with their mid-paced repetitive beat passages evoking the sort of relentless mysticism associated with crazed ‘speaking in tongues’ rituals. “Kurum” even manages to play though it’s entirety with jungles noise samples in its background, while “Ic19” at one point slows down enough to stop for a 15 second rave addling just to mix things up a bit. And none of this is to even hint at the Caribbean lounge-dance number of “General” that the band throws in half way though the record. Still, the Buraka crew are more savvy than to think that small exotic allusions sell in this industry climate, and closers “Beef” and “Black Diamond” end the album on a dark, edgy note, with their grime influenced proto-dubstep sounds pushing the album back into more familiar club territory. MC Kalaf’s restrained rapping carries a weight that seems like it’s screaming to burst forth, while The Virus Syndicate channel a mix of grimemasters Wiley and Dizzee Rascal, once again placing Black Diamond
firmly within it’s genesis of harsh, urban infused dancefloor bangers.
Besides – look at it this way, not only can you dance around to the hippest bass pumpin’ tunes in town, but you can go home and feel culturally enlightened too! Sure, It’s always been a risk to buy into any sort of dance album promising to “reconnect with urban music’s deepest realities” by throwing in a couple of tribal inspired beats over typical electronic melodies, but Buraka Som Sistema are hella serious about what they do – and given that they do it so well, let them fires rage and get your tribal on.