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Albums reviews Album reviews with IAN SINCLAIR: April 1, 2024

Reviews of Les Amazons d’Afrique, Adrianne Lenker, and John Surnam

Les Amazones d’Afrique
Musow Danse
(Real World)

★★★

ALL-WOMAN supergroup Les Amazones d’Afrique take their name from the Dahomey Amazons, an all-women west Africa military regiment that existed from the 17th century to the 19th century — the subject of the 2022 Hollywood blockbuster The Woman King.

Produced by Jacknife Lee (U2, Taylor Swift), their third album is a big, bold set full of glitchy, hip-hop-fuelled pop songs. Comprised of Mamani Keita from Mali, Fafa Ruffino from Benin, Kandy Guira from Burkino Faso, Dobet Gnahore from the Ivory Coast and Congolese singer/actress Alvie Bitemo, they champion women’s rights in Africa and the rest of the world.

Over Amahoro’s warm ’70s-style synths Bitemo urges women to “Walk on with strength/stand tall, be strong,” while the big beats on Kiss Me sound a lot like another Real World band — Montparnasse Musique.

Empowering music to dance along to.

Adrianne Lenker
Bright Future
(4AD)

★★★★

FOLLOWING the simultaneous release of the impressive Songs and Instrumentals albums in 2020, Bright Future heralds the return of Adrianne Lenker as a solo artist (she also helms lo-fi band Big Thief).

Joined by a talented backing group on guitar, violin and piano, the US millennial musician once again harnesses the rustic, indie-folk sound that has become her trademark.

Opener Real House is full of familial memories (“When I was seven I saw the first film that made me scared”) and heart-stopping lines (“Now 31 and I don’t feel strong/ And your love is all I want”). Sadness As A Gift sounds like an Alan Lomax field recording, while Vampire Empire has a charming organic tempo and mood to it.

Endlessly inventive and capable of writing incredibly poignant lyrics, Lenker remains one of the finest singer-songwriters working today.

John Surman
Words Unspoken
(ECM)

★★★★

TURNING 80 this year, Devon-born John Surman has been a dynamic force in jazz music since the late 1960s, playing alongside key figures in the scene and recording with Island Records in the early 1970s.

Recorded in his adopted city of Oslo, Words Unspoken is the saxophone legend’s first album since 2018’s marvellous Invisible Threads.

The album title refers to the musical understanding of the highly accomplished group, with Rob Luft on guitar, Rob Waring on vibraphone and Thomas Stronen on drums.

Pebble Dance is a quick-paced, playful opener, the track’s incessant energy impressive for a musician half Surman’s age. The title track unspools at the pensive pace of his masterworks in the 2000s — Coruscating and The Spaces In Between — the four-piece providing the perfect accompaniment to the band leader’s sonorous playing.

Another wonderful set from the jazz legend.

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