Sinkane - Mars

A record which skillfully and fluidly merges the sounds of Sudanese pop, Afro-funk, soul and krautrock.

Label: City Slang / DFA

Rating: 7

It’s hard to doubt Ahmad Gallab’s credentials: he’s worked as a touring multi-instrumentalist for Caribou, Yeasayer and of Montreal among others and, on this debut album for his Sinkane project, there are contributions from the likes of Twin Shadow, Yeasayer and Afrobeat band Nomo.

And at times on ‘Mars’, a groove heavy and colourfully sunshine-filled record, you hear all of these influences weave themselves into a rich tapestry.

Yet despite all these influences the record is very much about Gallab. He is essentially a one-man band, playing at least four instruments on every track. And his back-story also seems key to the album’s creation. Gallab’s family left Sudan when he was a boy, moved to the US and he went to high school in Kent, Ohio. There, he found his first musical community in the town’s post-hardcore scene.

Yet post-hardcore may give you the wrong impression about ‘Mars’. What you get is a record which skillfully and fluidly merges the sounds of Sudanese pop, Afro-funk, soul and krautrock. Light of touch and big on easygoing, syncopated rhythms (and, of course, references to the red planet), it’s an album built on motorik percussion and blissful catchiness. It has a chilled out, summer vibe (which makes it puzzling as to why it’s getting a December release) and there’s even some free jazz thrown in there, though thankfully not too much.

The album opens with the blissed out funk of ‘Runnin’’ which features a sweet falsetto and a hypnotising groove. ‘Making Time’ uses a mechanical vocal, new age synth and a George Lewis, Jr. guitar solo to create a slice of spaced out funk that could have been taken from ‘All Hour Cymbals’. Which brings us on to ‘Jeeper Creeper’ which actually features Ira from Yeasayer – together they create five minutes of slinky Afro-funk grooves while the robo-funk of ‘Lady C’mon’ is also mighty fine.

The free jazz of the title track grates and some of the record falls a little bit into the background and seems almost too polite at times but ‘Mars’ is a sophisticated and beguiling album full of wonder. Space is, indeed, the place.