Historic Egyptians imagined demise as a journey via a treacherous underworld of demon reptiles, onerous puzzles, and grueling trials. To assist the useless navigate these obstacles and attain eternity, the Egyptians assembled The Chapters of Coming Forth by Day, generally often known as The E-book of the Useless. The tome gives spells, prayers, and journey, a breadth that Ibeyi embraces on their third album, which takes its title from one of many e-book’s many entries. Since 2014’s Oya EP, named after the Yoruba deity of storms and demise, the French-Cuban sister duo has bent heavy feelings and weighty topics into lithe, elegant shapes, constructing shrines from private and historic tragedies. On Spell 31, they rework their signature layered spirituals into fleet grooves that shimmer with shade and pleasure but nonetheless channel ache and loss.
The place Ash and Ibeyi had been spectral and skeletal, evoking aching absences, the songs on Spell 31 are rhythmic and sinuous, engorged with blood and vitality. The twins have credited the shift to a change of their writing course of: Usually, Lisa-Kaindé would provoke songs on the piano and Naomi would mildew the percussion round her sister’s melodies and lyrics. This time, the rhythms got here first, Naomi and longtime collaborator Richard Russell making beats and Lisa-Kaindé writing to them. Her melodies “needed to acquire muscle…and be capable to reside as much as the beat,” Lisa-Kaindé defined in an interview. The ensuing album isn’t an outright jamboree, however the rhythm-forward method begets bolder, extra vigorous performances and preparations.
“Product of Gold” pulses with textures and voices, Ibeyi and Pa Salieu declaring their resilience over a thicket of rumbling bass, shrill yelps, and rattly percussion. “My spell made from gold, gold, gold,” Lisa-Kaindé sings for the hook, a buoyant concord backing her. The road works as each incantation and earworm, a one-two punch Ibeyi additionally land on “Lavender & Crimson Roses,” a collaboration with Jorja Smith that evokes the luxurious melodies of We Are KING. “Lavender and purple roses,” the trio coos, their voices tender and heat as they dedicate the floral providing to a hopeless former lover. The tune is the uncommon kiss-off that’s as candy as a kiss.
Amid the revelry and uplift, Ibeyi nonetheless evoke the bone-deep grief and despondence that characterised their early work. “Creature (Good)” builds to an epiphany that sounds extra paralyzing than liberating. “I don’t need to be excellent, don’t need to be excellent/I lastly see, I’m only a creature,” Lisa-Kaindé wails, stretching the final phrase with downcast trills that recall Björk. “Tears Are Our Drugs” gives the same mixture of ache and triumph, the sisters dolefully reaching their higher registers over a spare bassline and a faint drone. “Have a look at my eyes and cry with me,” they softly request.
On “Los Muertos,” over solemn hums, dulled stomps, and the Santería chant of “ibaé,” which is used to honor deceased family members, they recite the names of misplaced family and associates. The tune is celebratory regardless of its gravity, the “ibaé” sourced from a tune by Lisa-Kaindé and Naomi Díaz’s late father, famed conguero Miguel “Angá” Díaz. Ibeyi additionally pattern their father on “Rise Above,” a soulful however limp interpretation of Black Flag’s punk commonplace. Their model, which they reportedly recorded with out listening to the unique, features a perfunctory reference to George Floyd’s homicide, and is extra respectable than galvanizing.
Fortunately, “Rise Above” is the album’s sole misfire. Ibeyi proceed to rejoice and probe diaspora, constructing bridges between the sounds and traditions of their transatlantic heritage. There’s a quiet audacity to their rising syncretism, which right here casually yokes collectively Egyptian funerary lore, South African sangomas, Santería rituals, and British rap. The wacky sprawl feels in line with The E-book of the Useless, which traditionally was a various, unofficial assortment of texts moderately than a secure, canonical e-book. In Ibeyi’s deft arms, custom, like demise, is a gateway to unusual wonders.
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