French-Cuban twins Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz, better known as Ibeyi released their second album in 2017 and immediately stopped me in my tracks. With its gorgeous harmonies, booming organic beats and minimalist production, it sounds, to put it bluntly, absolutely f*cking amazing. Try playing this record loud on a high-quality stereo, stand well back and feel it as well as hear it. It connected with me in the same way as much as Bjork’s work often does, although ironically, despite much critical acclaim the new Bjork record has floated by me without really locking me in.
Produced by Richard Russell and with guest appearances from the likes of Chilly Gonzales, Meshell Ndegeocello, Mala Rodriguez, and Kamasi Washington and Michelle Obama (albeit Michelle is just a sample) Ash is full of rhythm and unique songs – if I had one criticism it’s that some of the tracks almost seem a little too short and that the gaps between them aren’t long enough. I’d liked them to have just languidly grooved on for a few minutes longer and have had a bit more space to breathe, but I guess that doesn’t suit the modern way of jump to the next track listening thanks to streaming services.
But that minor criticism aside (and it's not much of a criticism to say you want more of the same is it?) as the beats and dense harmonies draw you in on this record you’ll soon realise that Ash comes with a high focus on the current climate of injustice. In particular there is much emphasis on female equality. “The measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls” says Michelle Obama in the previously mentioned sample. It's just one of many references to a strong female positive message on the album.
Ash is a record that is socially conscious, mixes tradition with modernism and has some great songs in the mix as well. If my criticism above had been taken into account it would have probably been in my top 10, but still 14th favourite of the year is still a big compliment.
Ibeyi - Away Away