Sinkane review – a heavy dose of razor-sharp funk

Oslo, London
Vocal fumblings and kit glitches fade into the background as Ahmed Gallab’s genre-bending musical mastery takes centre stage

For Sinkane frontman Ahmed Gallab, shape-shifting as an indie music jack-of-all-trades comes naturally. His 2012 album, Mars, first put Sinkane on the map, but he’d already been racking up various performance credits with other bands by then: a brief period playing drums for experimental electronic outfit Caribou in 2008; his turn as a bassist and drummer for psych-poppers Of Montreal; and three years spent switching between guitar, drums and keyboard with left-field indie band Yeasayer.

Somewhere amid Gallab’s session work, he found time to focus on Sinkane material, too. He began the solo project in 2007, folding in a diverse set of genres along the way. Seven years down the line, Gallab pours influences from his Sudanese roots into his songwriting, shaken up with a heavy dose of funk keyboard and the odd sprawling rock guitar solo when the mood strikes.

Decked out in his signature wide-brimmed hat – watch out there, Kindness – Gallab grins widely while plucking his guitar over single How We Be. The set kicks off with Sinkane’s funk flag flying high, wah-wah pedal distorting the rhythm guitar and a meaty bassline bouncing to and fro. It’s an uptempo start that showcases Sinkane as a “band’s band”: Jonny Lam’s deft guitar noodling, Ish Montgomery’s command of the bass and, perhaps most importantly for a genre-bending act so reliant on danceable rhythms, drummer Jason Trammell’s sheer precision, all combine to produce a set replete with razor-sharp skill.

It’s not all flawlessly executed, though. Gallab’s falsetto cuts through the mix, but otherwise his vocals muddle into reverbed warbling – more likely due to his mic levels than anything else. The band also fall victim to a mid-set slow-jam lull. Luckily, Gallab has the ability to pull things back on track, and by the end he is juxtaposing west African musical motifs, squealing guitar solos and 1970s-era Stevie Wonder funk elements with ease – all those years of multitasking clearly paid off.


Tshepo Mokoena

The GuardianTramp

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