Antibalas ‘Where the Gods are in Peace’ LP/CD/DIG (Daptone) 3/5

Brooklyn-based Afro-Beat specialists, Antibalas, make a brave attempt at expanding their sound with three lengthy cuts, ranging between nine and fifteen minutes, that then sub-divide into separate movements. This is more an extended EP than a full blown album and weighs in at just thirty-five minutes. An obvious contender for single release is the opener, ‘Gold Rush’, and the inclusion of wah-wah guitar, funky organ with a clavinet feel and percussion makes this an instantly danceable number and one that should find favour with DJs.

The music loses its direction somewhat on the three part movement, ‘Tombstone’, with Afro-vocal chants giving way to heavy percussion, before guests Zap Mama enter in the second movement alongside a crescendo of sound effects. At times, the non-stop percussion does tend to grate, and the listener is left wondering how it all fits together as a cohesive whole.

If the music is atmospheric throughout, there is nonetheless a greater need to explain in simple terms to the listener what the narrative is and such is the complexity of the story line that one loses sight of the underlying theme of an ‘Afro-Western Trilogy’. Quite possibly, this is best sampled in a live context. Antibalas have served as a backing band for tribute shows devoted to the music of David Byrne and Talking Heads, Aretha Franklin and Paul Simon.

Tim Stenhouse