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Album: Sinkane, Mars (City Slang)

A grooving gun for hire conjures up a magical mix

Andy Gill
Saturday 15 December 2012 01:00 GMT

Sinkane is the nom-de-disque of Brooklyn-based Ahmed Gallab, a multi-instrumentalist who left his native Sudan as a child. Gallab made his reputation as a multi-talented musical gun for hire on tours with the likes of Of Montreal and Caribou, acts whose eclectic manner is reflected on Sinkane's own album.

Recorded with friends including Yeasayer's Jason Trammell and Ira Wolf Tuton on drums and bass, Mars is a sort of futuristic electro-jazz-funk throwback with feet placed equally in both the Seventies heyday of Herbie Hancock and George Duke, the vocoder-streaked landscape of modern electro, and the high-life and soukous sounds of Eighties African music. That's three feet, which is about the number required to keep up with the infectious grooves Sinkane conjures up here.

"Runnin'" opens the album in sparkling style, with wah-wah guitar and synth riffs intertwining behind Gallab's falsetto croon. The lyric is little more than an invocation to "better keep on runnin', runnin'", but it's instrumental blends, rather than words, that concern Sinkane, who plays at least four instruments on each track. "Jeeper Creeper" is the most irresistible of crossovers, with drums and propulsive, swaying bassline pushing the urgent desert-blues rhythm, while synth fizzes airily and guitar twinkles lightly.

The Seventies feel is more pronounced on "Lady, C'mon", a funk-soul number whose itchy, intertwining instrumental lines recall Curtis Mayfield, and "Lovesick" and "Caparundi", where the flute of Stutz McGee and the brass of African horn ensemble NOMO lend the rolling grooves a febrile flavour. Elsewhere, "Warm Spell" and "Making Time" offer stable bridges between the various musical worlds intersecting on Mars.

Ironically, only on the short title-track itself does the momentum flag slightly, as Gallab's cymbals and sleighbell percussion combine with McGee's flute and electric piano like the meandering intro to the worst kind of Seventies "fusion" jazz abomination. But that's a rare misstep on an album that looks to both East and West, and reaches simultaneously into the past and the future.

Download: Runnin'; Jeeper Creeper; Lovesick

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