There’s a lot of things you can say about Sinkane: it’s the second album of Ahmed Abdullahi Gallab, Yeasayer member and multi-instrumentalist for Caribou and Eleanor Friedberdger amongst others. But Mars is all about one thing – the groove. Gallab draws on a broad palate of sounds (funk, soul, jazz, afrobeat, chillwave, jungle, rock, the whole shebang) but no matter how far out a song goes, it always spins back to its central motif.
It’s an ethos with which Mars will either fly or die in your ears. Happily, most of the time it’s a joy to listen to. It launches triumphantly with “Running,” a Curtis Mayfield-esque wah-wah guitar and falsetto funk romp that feels more like a sprint than a run. “Jeepers-Creeper” is more laidback, a dreamy, blissed out number that feels like it should be performed in the midst of summer by a band swaying gently to the rhythm, eyes fixed on the sky. Like most of the album, it’s deceptively simple. Your attention will be drawn to the guitar licks, but then you’ll miss out on the subtleties of the bass, percussion and rhythms bubbling underneath.
Perhaps the best synthesis of Sinkane’s sound is “Making Time,” a groove that delves more deeply into a world of breaks, percussion and sax while dropping a shredding guitar solo into the mix for good measure. But his dedication to the groove is also the records Achilles’ heel. “Love Sick” and “Lady C’Mon” both start off well enough, but simply aren’t compelling enough to sustain your interest for their entirety.
Having said that “Love Sick” does prepare the ground for the album’s most far out track “Mars”--a trippy jazz excursion that’s just a bit, well far out. Jazz flute drifts in and out over guitar noodlings and sparse beats as it all gets a bit vague. It’s at this point that Mars begins to lose its way, culminating in the rather maudlin lament “Caparundi," which could be an offcut from TV On The Radio’s last album (not the worst thing you could be). But coming after the euphoria of the first five tracks, it feels like a bit of a damp squib. And in that respect it’s not the epitaph an album as--well, groovy--as Mars deserves. Perhaps it’s best enjoyed as an album of two halves – with funk on the A side, and a more introspective flipside. Either way, Sinkane’s trip to the Red Planet is more than worth signing up for.
- Will Georgi