Ibibio Sound Machine: Doko Mien review – borderless groove polymaths

(Merge Records)

At a time when Korean boybands go global, Latin pop tops charts worldwide and Afrobeats pervades the UK rap scene, a London band which combines New York new wave and disco with Ghanaian highlife and Nigerian folk culture seems like a proposition with more mainstream potential by the day. Certainly Ibibio Sound Machine’s trademark sound – a groove-driven melange of styles which also takes in gospel, funk, post- and electro-punk and contemporary R&B, alongside African polyrhythms, horns and guitar – is lively and luxurious enough for the eight-piece outfit to pursue next-level popularity with their third album.

Pulling together the band’s pile-up of influences is London-born, Nigerian-bred vocalist Eno Williams, who on Doko Mien convincingly shape-shifts between conventional power-diva, sultry R&B singer, the feral frontwoman of a post-punk girlband and pidgin English-speaking yarn-spinner, all the while maintaining her own distinctive vocal character. Even more impressive is the way Williams’s voice cuts through the dense instrumentation, which, though fun and fascinating, does sometimes border on the exhaustingly cacophonous. Instead, ISM are most successful when they pare down their maximalist tendencies – on Guess We Found a Way, for instance, a syrupy Scritti Politti-esque ballad spiked with shards of squintingly bright highlife guitar, or the gorgeous I Will Run, which pairs heavenly gospel vocal harmonies with sci-fi synths. It’s on these occasions, when the band’s pan-continental fusion feels casual and classy rather than hyperactively overblown, that the group are at their most thrilling – and best placed to capitalise on the new era of borderless pop.


Rachel Aroesti

The GuardianTramp

Related Content

Article image
SG Lewis: Times review – soaring, subtle disco for kitchen dancefloors
Given the British producer’s skill for emotionally attuned nightclub elation, his debut shouldn’t suffer from the shutdown of its natural habitat

Alexis Petridis

18, Feb, 2021 @12:00 PM

Article image
Special Interest: Endure review – jackhammer beats and punk catharsis
The New Orleans band provide a release from tough times with a hardcore album inflected by funk, glam rock and disco

Emma Garland

04, Nov, 2022 @8:00 AM

Article image
Róisín Murphy: Róisín Machine review – still inventing new moves
Pop outsider and lockdown living-room star Murphy distils her disco expertise and musical idiosyncrasies in songs pulsing with dancefloor power

Alexis Petridis

24, Sep, 2020 @11:00 AM

Article image
Ibibio Sound Machine: Electricity review – vibrant Afro funk hits the heights
(Merge Records)
The London band’s kaleidoscopic new album crosses genres and skips past musical borders

Kadish Morris

27, Mar, 2022 @12:00 PM

Article image
The 100 greatest UK No 1s: 100-1
Look back on our complete countdown of the greatest UK No 1s, from the Beatles to Baby D, and So Solid Crew to Suzi Quatro

Ben Beaumont-Thomas, Alexis Petridis and Laura Snapes

05, Jun, 2020 @8:00 AM

Article image
Sophie Ellis-Bextor's lockdown listening: 'A child could understand it – stay at home'
Ahead of her final kitchen disco livestream, the singer has been listening to Prince’s rudest hits and doing Lion King numbers with her kids

Interview by Laura Snapes

29, May, 2020 @9:00 AM

Article image
Pop, Prince and Black Panthers: the glorious life of Chaka Khan
The self-described ‘alpha chick’ has weathered addiction, dodgy managers and the death of Prince to remain as funky as ever. She describes how she went from gun-toting activist to teetotal vegan

Alexis Petridis

15, Feb, 2019 @6:00 AM

Article image
The 50 best albums of 2022, No 1: Beyoncé – Renaissance
At last, a post-pandemic party album we could all get behind, as the artist rode her glittery horse through house, disco and ballroom culture to reimagine Studio 54 in her image

Jenessa Williams

23, Dec, 2022 @10:00 AM

Article image
Raye's lockdown listening: 'Nina Simone tears your skin and burns your eardrums'
The British dance-pop star considers Sam Cooke’s A Change is Gonna Come amid the Black Lives Matter protests, and picks out tracks by Otis Redding, Miraa May and more

Interview by Ben Beaumont-Thomas

12, Jun, 2020 @9:30 AM

Article image
The greatest songs about the climate crisis – ranked!
As Cop26 opens in Glasgow, we provide the soundtrack, ranging from Gojira’s metal fury to gorgeous environmental paeans by Childish Gambino, Neil Young and Joni Mitchell

Alexis Petridis

28, Oct, 2021 @12:30 PM