The Polyversal Souls ‘Invisible Joy’ (Initiative Music Germany/Philophon) 4/5

the-polyversal-soulsBerlin is a hive of music activity and the Ru-Ting Clan Sound laboratory is the home of one Max Weissenfeldt (aka of Whitefield Brothers fame) and who has made it his life’s ambition to become interested in drum rhythms across the globe and incorporate them into his music, much as Ginger Baker did in the late 1960s and 1970s. In 2010, after travelling the globe to take in multifarious drum influences, multi-percussionist Whitefield founded the Polyversal Souls with a definite world beats feel from the outset. The funky opener, Yello be bobre’ hints at late 1980s Salif Keita in outlook and is a stunning number that features lovely percussion and lead vocals from Guy One. This is already making waves on the dancefloors of the world and rightly so. An intriguingly titled, ‘Starlet Road filling station romance’, is a musical encounter between Ethio-Jazz and Jamaican dub that fuses genres effortlessly, and features vibes from the leader and a tenor solo from Tobias Delius, with Ethiopian guest Hailu Mergia (of Walias band fame) on authentic lead vocals. The Ethiopiques series by French musicologist Francis Falcetto may well have served as the inspiration here. Jamaican flavours are the order of the day on ‘Arembi Ara Amoz’ which has melodic keyboards and lead vocals from Yusef Bayani. The left field credential of the band are showcased on a Sun Ra cover, ‘Love in Outer Space’, with a jazz-inflected acoustic piano intro courtesy of Niko Meinhold and then some tasty collective vocals with percussion and tenor saxophone to the fore. An all too brief Duke Ellington cover ‘Race’ comes across as a homage to the great alto saxophone playing of one Johnny Hodges and might have been inspired by one of Duke’s sumptuous suites, such as ‘Brown, Black and Beige’. Already attracting attention from discerning specialist publications of the calibre of Wax Poetics, Polyversal Souls are a name to be reckoned with and this fine album illustrates precisely why.

Tim Stenhouse