There's a fun yet futile challenge posed by the Ibibio Sound Machine's sophomore LP: Just try to sit still while listening to it.
Fronted by British-Nigerian vocal dynamo Eno Williams, the London-based eight-piece's eponymous 2014 release was one of that year's finest debuts. Uyai (meaning 'beauty' in the Nigerian language of Ibibio) builds on its predecessor's invigorating melange of highlife, disco, funk and electronica with even more assured musicality and social consciousness.
Opener "Give Me the Reason" tells the sad story of the 2014 Boko Haram kidnappings over electronic bass and stabs of brass that turns indignation into an urgent, rebellious cry for justice. "The Chant (Iquo Isang)" and "The Pot Is on Fire," meanwhile, sustain the propulsive vibe, the latter with a gleaming synthesizer hook that recalls an early 1980s Kashif production over percolating percussion. Even the hazy lushness of "Quiet," which features Williams' most haunting vocals, has a hip-swaying pull. Although she sings mainly in Ibibio, Williams performs with enough aplomb that it connects immediately.
The same could be said for the band, who marry a Moroder-esque electronic chill with stark syncopation on the set's best cut, "Sunray." True to its name, Uyai is also a glorious, world-conscious party. Beautiful indeed. (Merge)