Review: Back in the autumn, Wack Wack Rhythm Band launched the WWRB label, in the process dropping their first single in six years. This speedy follow-up is similarly impressive. For us, it's all-about A-side "Madras Express", a speeding, funk-fuelled journey through meandering saxophone solos, punchy horn breaks, fast-fingered electric bass, spacey Moog motifs and all manner of layered additional percussion. That said, there's also much to admire about Hammond funk workout "Stay Pressed", where jammed out solos and lead lines come accompanied by sharp guitar riffs, Mod-era lead guitar solos and the kind of stomping beat that would excite even the most miserable of Northern Soul enthusiasts. It also contains an absolutely killer drum solo, which is something we at least can't get enough of.
Review: The Fantastic Voyage label kicks off with a summery joint from RFX, otherwise known as Pharmacy Records mainstay Roman FX, straight out of Hong Kong. There's an undeniable African lilt to these tracks, shot through with a classic 90s house twist - just check the infectious bump of "Indaba Kabani". "Gambian Neptune" has a snappier feel, channeling the vibe of 80s extended dubs with its strident drum section and bombastic atmosphere. "Nigerian Charon" has an interesting mixture of vibes going on, part Art of Noise mash up and part peak time synth sizzler, while "Sudanese Xena" heads into the heat of night, conjuring up a seductive, swirling mood to get truly lost in.
David Tapfuma - "Magamba" (Esa Zimtronix Direct mix) (5:19)
Review: This compilation style outing from Southern African music enthusiasts Nyami Nyami is billed as "an ode to the music of Zimbabwe past and future". Side A boasts cuts from two Bulawayo-based "Kwela" outfits: a terrific, heavily percussive future dub interpretation of Bulawayo Kwela's "Mysterious Africa" by The Comet Is Coming producer Danalogue, and the sparse, sun-kissed acoustic bliss of Elliot Phiri's "Nomalanga". Turn to the flip for two versions of Hararre-based David Tapfuma's beautiful "Magumba". There's the original version, where Tapfuma sings over a solo mbira melody, and a superbly glassy-eyed, synth-heavy 21st century club version by Auntie Flo collaborator (and hugely talented producer) Esa Williams. As good as the rest of the EP is, his version is worth the admission price on its own.
Quitate El Sosten (Javi Frias extended disco edit) (6:56)
Quitate El Sosten (James Rod rework) (5:50)
Gozame Ya (Mr Absolutt feat Beauty Spot Excited version) (6:25)
Review: Cosmic Records Store is a brand new label with just a touch of mystery around the team behind them. If this launch release is anything to go by, there's a touch of class, knowledge and connections too. Celebrating the phenomenon that is the Muse Of Transition, Susana's allure is compounded by her political sexuality in the wake of Franco's demise. Sultry, silky and playful throughout, CRS have enlisted three key Spanish editors to join the party as Mr Absolutt, James Rod and Javi Frias all add groove extending, dubbed out magic to the originals. We can't wait to hear what Cosmic Record Store have up their sleeves next...
Review: If you're unfamiliar with the name Mavi Gunes 69, don't worry: it's a brand new project from Osman Murat Ertel - co-founder of cult Turkish psych-folk band BaBa Zula - and his life partner Esma Ertel, a talented singer, songwriter and dancer. There's much to admire on this out-there debut single, not least the lo-fi psychedelia of "3 Cember", where Esma Ertel's half-chanted vocals rise above hallucinatory Middle Eastern instrumentation (drenched in copious amounts of reverb) and a dark, low-slung groove. Flipside "Yafta" is a slightly more up-tempo affair, with flash-fried acid-funk guitar flashes and exotic instrumental flourishes rising above a near tribal late night groove. Both tracks are hugely atmospheric and undeniably intoxicating.
Review: Beating Heart has shared the late Hugh Tracey's archive at the International Library of African Music (ILAM) with contemporary producers and keeping in line with Tracey's vision, all proceeds will be used to assist people in the areas where the music was originally recorded. This time, Warp Records and all round UK electronica legend Luke Vibert gives us the delightful oddball groove that is "Africable", Italian DJ Clap! Clap! Gives us the African polyrhythms via Detroit high-tech soul on "Kulira" while Los Angeles duo With You give us the sublime "No Resistance". Each 1500 albums sold will feed a school of 500 forever! Support a great cause and feed your ears with some wonderful music while you're at it.
Review: A bona fide Afro funk legend, Tony Grey cut his teeth in Nigeria as a James Brown impersonator before establishing pacts with his backing band The Black 7 who later morphed into the Ozimba Messengers. Their album The Message was released in 1981 and gave us both of these outrageously funky jams. "Time Factor" is undiluted disco complete with cool pops and whistles that Dave Lee has been championing for 30 years. "You Are The One" shows more of its Nigerian heartbeat amidst the tight horns and Tony's emphatic vocal delivery. Complete with a poster, this is a really special reissue.
Review: After cutting his teeth in Atlantic-signed jazz-fusion band Kabasa in the early 1980s, vocalist and bassist Tata Sibeko briefly pursued a solo career. He only ever released two 12" singles as Tata, but one - the 1985 double A-side treat "It's A Mess/Afro Breakdance" - has gone on to become something of an in-demand item amongst collectors of South African dance music. Here Sharp Flat has given it the reissue treatment. A-side "It's A Mess" is a fine chunk of breezy, lo-fi electrofunk in which Sibeko sings cheerily - despite the downbeat lyrical content - over colourful synths, bubbling machine drums and a thickset synth bassline. Arguably even better is "Afro Breakdance", which sounds like a superior, slightly deeper South African take on teapot-dance innovators Break Machine.
Review: Exploring the sounds emanating from South Asia, Masaala is a new label with a fresh outlook. The first release features Manchester-based producers Raheel Khan and Adesi turning in some powerful edits that will appeal to anyone seeking invigorating sounds from further afield. Khan's twist on "Mast Qalandar" sounds like a striking version of Nusrat Fateh Ali Khan's "Mustt Mustt". Adesi offers up the lions share of the edits though, channeling South Asian sounds through grooves ranging from the fierce disco stomp of "Sansani" to the low slung funk groove of "Nah Nah Nah". "Kammata" has a more dense rhythmic complexity at its heart, and "Kuchi Kuchi" collides traditional sounds with contemporary broken beat to brilliant effect.
Review: London label Olindo continues to explore the world of contemporary Venezuelan music via a three-track 7" from up-and-coming multi-instrumentalist and composer Isaac Sasson. The two original tracks here are sweet, loose and gently breezy, with Sasson offering up an atmospheric blend of soft-focus South American rhythms, evocative acoustic guitars, humid tropical field recordings, breathy flute solos and occasional flashes of his own improvised vocals. The flipside boasts a fine remix from Albert's Favourites artist Hector Plimmer, who fuses hand-picked Sasson samples - percussion, vocals, and so on - with dreamy synthesizer chords, lilting electronic melodies and a super-deep breakbeat groove.
Review: Baba Commandant and the Mandingo Band first came through on Sublime Frequencies, back in 2015, with a sublime LP that carried the ethereal sounds of contemporary Afro jazz. The outfit are back, this time on France's Mawimbi imprint, with a corker by the name of "Wasso". Taking inspiration from the school of Fela and Tony Allen, this is deep-minded funkiness with a political edge - a contemporary afrobeat killer! The remixes are no less intriguing, starting off with the electronic nuttiness of Loya's version, followed by the 'broken', beat-driven remix from Mr Boom, and even an Afro version. A done deal, in our opinion...
Review: Cuba's Manana Records launches via a fine EP from Obbatuke, a eight-piece rumba outfit fronted by renowned quinto player Carlos Guerra. The band are apparently regulars at the legendary Casa del Caribe in Santiago de Cuba, a venue widely considered to be the beating heart of the Eastern rumba scene. Musically, the five tracks here mix typically high tempo, densely percussive rumba rhythms with chanted vocals. The lack of other musical instruments is startling, but takes nothing away from the tracks. In fact, it only enhances their back-to-basics charms. It proves beyond any doubt that it's the drums that make great dance music.
Review: Last May, Tal released On Mande, the second album from traditional Kenyan combo Ogoya Nengo & The Dodo Women's Group. As the title suggestions, On Mande Versions sees their percussive workouts being remixed by a quartet of electronic music talents. Lena Willikens turns "Orutu Run" into a mid-tempo, tribal techno chugger, while Tolouse Low Trax re-imagines as "Mix Zwei" as a spaced-out Afro-dub masterpiece. Orson's more floor-friendly version of "Bunde Dub" continues on a similarly steppy, bass-heavy tip, leaving Berceuse Heroique regular Don't DJ to steal the show with a thrillingly weird and out-there rework of "Sorbe Pekingese".