Album reviews: MC Yallah X Debmaster, Various Artists

Album reviews: MC Yallah X Debmaster, Various Artists

MC Yallah X Debmaster

Kubali (Hakuna Kulala)

The most frenetic moment of Kubali comes right at the top, like an intimidating bouncer. Once you get past the brief jabbery pattern of vocables, percussion, synthesizers, and unidentified sonic objects, Kubali just swaggers and bumps. Uganda’s MC Yallah spits in Kiswahili and Luganda, reveling in the stinkface beats of Berlin-located French producer Debmaster. Assured, somehow simultaneously brooding and playful, his settings recall Shabazz Palaces; meantime, Yallah is like the coolest girl you see in the hall between classes, nice to everyone but bad as hell, rolling her R’s while throwing down on the beat or skating around it like a lost Solesides relative. Nyege Nyege Tapes has been indispensably chronicling the African underground, and with Kubali, their imprint Hakuna Kulala has a statement release, including two of the best cuts of 2020, the title track and “Dunia.” [9.0]

Various Artists

Birds of Prey: The Album (Warner)

My hopes for Birds of Prey to be a smart, funny revenge flick were sunk by the trailer, full of self-reflexive “badass” gestures, empty bombast, and lame comedy. With precious few exceptions (Doja Cat, WHIPPED CREAM w/ Baby Goth, Sofi Tukker), the album’s a match. We’re dealt slab after horrendous slab of over-
blown hybrid rock-rap—if you accept meaningless bursts of ultra-processed aggro guitar as a definition of “rock”—before finishing with a trio of covers, ranging from the passable (Summer Walker’s “I’m Gonna Love You Just a Little More Babe”) to the execrable (ADONA’s “Hit Me With Your Best Shot”). [4.1]

Various artists

Lévé Lévé: São Tome and Principe Sounds 70s-80s (Bongo Joe)

Props to French crate-digger DJ Tom B for pulling together this cohesive collection of dance music from the tiny island nation São Tomé and Principe. The characteristic rhythmic pattern puxa is an up-tempo blend of cross-Atlantic components, while instrumentation weaves together skittery electric guitar, minimal bass, tons of percussion, occasional keyboards, even mandolin—a total lack of horns is a bit curious, but no bother. Early singles by Os Úntués offer pronounced samba influences that contrast with the pan-African syncretism of later tracks like Africa Negra’s jubilant “Zimbabwe,” a wah-soaked ode from 1981 celebrating the country’s recent independence, five years after São Tomé and Principe’s own peaceful transition from Portuguese rule. It’s worth staying tuned as Bongo Joe promises more of Tom B’s finds. [8.1]

Various artists

We Were Living in Cincinnati (Hozac)

Ohio’s Devo, Electric Eels, and Pere Ubu almost invented postpunk before punk even happened, so what did Ohio postpunk actually sound like? With this wonderful document, Hozac answers the question for Cincinnati. As Chrome Cranks’ Peter Aaron recounts in his fantastic liner notes, these farmland-bound bands made things up based on a trickle of information coming from the outside, plus occasional forays to New York or Cleveland. The 33 tracks are snotty but guile-
less and often almost sweet, more than ragged and pretty damn right. A splendid, stunning connection to present-day Charlottesville is Dave Lewis, a central figure in We Were Living in Cincinnati (the title is actually a Lewis lyric). Today, Lewis runs a used record store in Luray while spinning motets and virelais on WTJU’s “Early Music Show.” How punk is that? [8.3]

https://hozacrecords.bandcamp.com/album/we-were-living-in-cincinnati

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thanks for this