Hypnotic Brass Ensemble - "Sankofa" (Lagos Shake: A Tony Allen Chop Up)
Lagos shakes indeed, in perfect sync with Tokyo, New York and Rio, among others. This all-star comp of remixes of Tony Allen songs confirms pretty much what one might expect about Blur's Damon Albarn: he's a regular cat, like you and me, in that if we had our own record label and relatively unlimited funds, we'd say, "huh, not much going on today, I think I'll take recordings from my favorite drummer and have a bunch of people remix them, if for no other reason than to add another cool record to my collection." And while there may not be much data as to how this comp came to be, a few listens create that effect, and in the best way possible. Honest Jon's has paired a number of established acts, as well as a few lesser known ones, with the work of an Afro-Beat legend, and the result bears considerable fruit.
Allen's trademark ‘chugga chugga’ drum beats resonate throughout, but are occasionally drowned out by the producer of the moment. The best examples are, coincidentally, Bonde Do Role and Diplo (the former's mentor in the world outside of baile funke), spraying and sprinkling Allen's racket in between the boom and bip of their trademark post-Miami beats. The Bonde Do Role beat sounds lifted entirely from their album With Lasers, but their game is not as much one of constant reinvention and new territory as it is one of recycling and finding a groove by any means necessary. Similarly, Diplo's "Fuji Ouija" isn't so far removed from his work with MIA.
Just as hot but less expected is the album's opener by Chicago horn upstarts Hypnotic Brass Ensemble. Their contribution never strays far from, well, post-N'Orleans brass ensemble-ness, but the warm mystique of "Sankofa" sits inside Allen's trademark rhythmic approach like a baby in a cradle. Equally intriguing, but perhaps less familiar, is Wareika Hill's Philly dub approach of "Reggae Land Dub," with Allen hidden a bit deeper in the dub-ska proceedings.
The collection as a whole never feels like more than its parts, a bunch of 12" singles that pay homage to a pioneer as an excuse to get down. But even to that extent, Lagos Shake showcases the universal appeal and importance of one of the world’s most polyrhythmic timekeepers.