Thursday, July 12, 2012

The Very Best: "MTMTMK" (album review)

What do you get when you team a Swedish producer with a Malawi singer?  You get The Very Best.  The project from Johan Hugo and Esau Mwamwaya release their second album, MTMTMK, on July 17th.

The combination of electronic sounds and traditional organic African music can be a powerful one.  Beefy beats help emphasize the rhythms of "Adani".  On "Yoshua Alikuti" the beats help build the song to its explosive climax.

Sometimes though, the odd couple partnership simply does not work.  On those occasions we get the ill-advised dance-slanted "Moto", which sucks the life out of the base song.  "Come Alive" is drowned out by beats that are far too aggressive for the song.  Worse, a track like "Rumbae" wouldn't sound out of place on Sandinista!, and that's never a compliment.

The high-pitched bleeps of "Kondaine" detract from the song at first.  Mwamwaya's joie de vivre proves to be infectious and irrepressible, fighting through the junk.  In fact, all of the best songs on the record are the ones where the celebratory spirit conveyed by the vocals are the dominant element.

The stream of guest musicians into the studio must have been constant, since the majority of the tracks feature a performance by someone outside the band.  The most significant of these is K'Naan appearing on "We OK".  The Canadian rapper brings his own positive vibe to the already inspirational track.

As much as a cool concept, and summer-appropriate sound makes me want to love this record, there are too many grating electronics for that.  It looks like I'll have to settle on simply liking it instead.

Best tracks: "Kondaine", "We OK"

Track listing for MTMTMK:
  • Adani
  • Kondaine
  • Rumbae
  • Moto
  • Yoshua Alikuti
  • Bantu
  • I Wanna Go Away
  • Come Alive
  • Mghetto
  • Nkago
  • Rudeboy
  • We OK

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