Da Lata ‘Birds’ LP/CD (Da Lata Music/Kartel) 4/5

‘Birds’ is the fourth album from London’s Afro-Brazilian soul duo, Da Lata, making this their first record release in five years. With past releases on Palm Pictures and Agogo Records, Da Lata now find themselves aligned with London’s Kartel Music Group, home to a variety of eclectic and diverse acts including saxophonist Colin Stetson, US rapper Chali 2na and trip-hop icons, Morcheeba.

Comprised of musician Chris Franck and DJ Patrick Forge – both former members of the 90s Brazilian musical outfit Batu – Da Lata have developed a strong reputation and catalogue stemming back to their 2000 debut, ‘Songs From The Tin’, and through their subsequent releases ‘Serious’ and ‘Fabiola’. Da Lata’s music has always been something of a sum of all its parts – while absolutely a celebration of African and Brazilian musical styles and genres, its origins from the late-90s London scene have always instilled a more versatile and all-encompassing dynamic as it teetered along the trip-hop, electronica and broken beat genres happily creating music that boasted elements of each.

Spearheaded by the singles ‘Memory Man’ (featuring Courtney Dennie) and ‘Oba Lata’, ‘Birds’ presents ten tracks of such a perfectly-balanced amalgamation of everything listeners have come to expect and love from Da Lata’s music. While songs like the album opener ‘Mentality’ (featuring Diabel Cissokho) and second single ‘Oba Lata’ showcase Franck and Forge’s afrobeat-esque styles, songs like ‘To B’ (featuring Adriana Vasques) and ‘Thunder of Silence’, which boasts the vocal talents of the incredible Bembé Segué, delve deeper into the band’s signature Latin inspirations. The vastly underrated vocalist Vanessa Freeman, herself famed for her appearances with artists as varied as The Baker Brothers, Kyoto Jazz Massive and Reel People, appears on perhaps the album highlight ‘Sway’, and the nostalgic folky soul of the closing title track provides Luiz Gabriel Lopes a perfectly lush backdrop to close the album. Some of the collaborators assembled on ‘Birds’ serve as long-standing contributors with some having appeared as far back as ‘Songs From The Tin’ and some even further back to the Batu days, like percussionist Carl Smith and drummer Tristan Banks.

‘Birds’ marks an interesting evolution for Da Lata’s music as we approach twenty years since the band’s debut record. While still celebrating all of the musical influences, styles and genres that they have always heralded for inspiration, the results are perhaps more accessible than they’ve ever been resulting in a welcome return after a five-year absence.

Live date:
Da Lata plus DJ Patrick Forge at The Hideway, London – 15th November – tickets HERE

Imran Mirza

Read also:
Da Lata ‘Fabiola’ LP/CD (Agogo) 3/5