Sinkane | Mars (DFA)

cd sinkaneIt has the right amount of everything, and not too much of anything.


From 2006 until 2010, I worked for Emergency Umbrella Records out of Columbia, Missouri. There were quite a few artists that came through our label, and every one of them had something that I really loved. Although they all had talent, Sinkane (Ahmed Gallab) was one of the most—if not the most—talented musicians I ever got to work with.

Gallab is a jack of all trades. He has toured with Caribou, Of Montreal, and Yeasayer, and is probably the most talented drummer I have ever seen, but that doesn’t mean his talents end with percussion. The live band that plays as Sinkane features Gallab on guitar and an accompanying group of musicians to simulate the rest, but don’t be fooled. Gallab could be playing all of the instruments himself if there were enough of him to be spread around on stage. In fact, when Emergency Umbrella put out his first release in 2008, Color Voice, we were so impressed with how he had recorded the album that we printed the vinyl in limited edition runs and colors all hand numbered. That is the sort of treatment that most artists will never get, and he got it on his first.

Add to the fact that his new album will be dropping on my birthday and you can understand why I wanted to review this record so badly. When I was last working with Sinkane, he had just released his self-titled LP, but was in the middle of touring with other groups and didn’t really get to tour in support of the record. This time around, I imagine things will be a little different, as this record is getting a lot more press to begin with.

On first listen, I was a bit surprised to hear the new sound Gallab is laying down. The previous records induced thoughts of Coltrane, but the new record screams ’70s, in the best way possible. The elements of jazz are still there, but in a much funkier package. The opening track “Runnin” sounds almost like the Eagles mixed with Funkadelic—and somehow it works.

The rest of the album does not necessary follow suit with that comparison, but definitely brings the element of ’70 s funk into the mix in a way that no other band seems to be doing at the moment. Wah pedals, delayed vocals, flutes, and upbeat percussion lead the way on this record. Take “Jeeper Creeper,” for example; it is a slower song, but the instrumentation keeps your feet tapping and your body moving. The vocals are calm and subdued, but the instrumentation is quick and precise.

Throughout the album, the vocals are impeccable, featuring effects in some cases, but typically just leading the songs through their natural progression. This is one of Gallab’s greatest traits, the way he can build a song. Every piece fits together like a puzzle, and you can’t imagine what one would be like without the other

For me, the standout track is “Making Time.” The bass line is something that would have filled VW buses throughout the country in the 1970s, but in today’s world begs to be blasted through your headphones. The percussion sounds like something from a small island tribe: The vocals are processed through a vocoder, bringing the track into a more modern time; a distorted guitar solo near the end of the track somehow works into the rest beautifully—all this while the consistent bass line keeps your head nodding.

Mars is a record that I am going to have on constant repeat for a while. It has the right amount of everything, and not too much of anything. The mixture of tracks provides enough to keep the listener entertained, even in this day of shuffled track lists and the instant mix. A+ | Alex Hodschayan

RIYL: Funkadelic, Brian Eno, Yeasayer

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