September 27, 2016
Alsarah & The Nubatones | Manara
Alsarah & The Nubatones, Brooklyn’s own “East African retro-pop” outfit, are back with their sophomore LP. It’s a follow-up to Silt, one of my favorite albums of 2014. Since then, oud player Haig Manoukian died of cancer (he’s replaced by one of his students, Brandon Terzic) and the band has toured four continents. Manara doesn’t pack the surprise or the wallop of Silt – the mode here is more introspective and experimental, with a series of interludes and liberal use of tape and digital effects creating a near-continuous flow throughout the album. The emphasis is still on pan-East African sounds, everything from Egypt and Alsarah’s native Sudan to Zanzibar. There’s plenty to like – start with the first track, whose exploratory introduction gives way to a throbbing rhythm. 13 also has a compelling 3/4 pulse that evolves into something more complex and exotic. The band negotiates the twists and turns of 6 (pronounce it “eye-AHN tah-BAHN”) like a well-rehearsed machine. And 8, the first single, is simultaneously lovely and the most experimental track here. The singing by Alsarah and her sister Nahid is superb throughout. A strong second outing.
TOP TRACKS: 1 6 8 13
ALSO RECOMMENDED: 3 4 9 10 11