Sierra Leone’s Refugee All Stars – Salone

Lay your trend-goggles aside: forget that this lot have been lauded by Ice Cube, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey. This is a killer record, and you need it.

 

http://www.cumbancha.com http://www.munichrecords.com

 

If you want a record to make you happy, “without a care in the world” happy, happy with no strings attached, well then this is it. From first to last, the new LP from the Refugee All Stars is infused with a giddying vibe, flitting between West African pop, steamy soundscapes and reggae and never tripping up on the way. Frankly you’re more likely to trip over whilst trying to dance to Gbara Case, which has to be one of the most infectious pop songs I’ve heard in years. It just hammers you in to the ground with its uplifting good time vibe and ridiculously catchy guitar line. That the song (and indeed LP) also references some of the terrible things that have happened both to the band and their country adds to its elemental strength.

Yesu Gorbu, Mother In Law and Mampama are belters too, whilst more meditative than the pixie-dust groove of Gbara Case they are just as steaming, relying on a steady but multi-layered and ultimately hypnotic rhythm, some warm brass and organ accompaniment and utterly brilliant, (brilliant in their sympathetic and mercurial nature) guitar lines. Kali is a killer track too, wedded to a groove that is as sensual as you can get, the subtle bass prompts and the almost tessellate guitar patterns can leave you in a right tizzy. We are dealing with the goddess as lover, not destroyer, here. It also helps that this ode to the seductress is a good seven minutes. There are some supreme Afrobeat workouts on here; Man Muyu goes toe to toe with Fela’s vibe in an extremely feisty manner.

Despite the LP’s length, it never, ever feels like a chore to listen in one sitting. The number of small soundscapes on here that act as a release of pressure, Goombay Interlude: Come Rain Come Sun, Chant It Down and Shake Your Body are like mini-songs, but never set up as such, rather they are mood pieces that act as the perfect foil for the pop and reggae. The reggae is pointed towards roots or lovers (e.g. Reggae Sounds The Message, Work It Brighter) and ska (Big Fat Dog) though there are dubby elements throughout, Toman Teti M’Ba is a fabulously out of focus trip to the temple of dub.

Lay your trend-goggles aside: forget that this lot have been lauded by Ice Cube, Angelina Jolie and Oprah Winfrey. This is a killer record, and you need it.