The Very Best - MTMTMK

An album that carries on the spirit of the debut while progressing their sound at the same time.

Rating: 8

The debut album by The Very Best, 2009’s ‘Warm Heart Of Africa’ was a massive critical success combining the rich organic sounds of traditional African music with a dazzling array of electronic sounds and influences giving a unique hybrid between two very different styles. For the much anticipated follow up the duo of Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya and London based producer Johan Hugo that make up The Very Best ensconced themselves in a makeshift studio in Mwamwaya’s hometown of Lilongwe. In their isolated environment cut off from all distractions, they have crafted an album that sets the ebullient charm of their debut against some altogether deeper and darker sounds while losing none of their bewitching singularity.

‘MTMTMK’ is an album that is still immediately recognisable as The Very Best but it is markedly bigger in every sense. The record is positively bursting with enormous dance floor rhythms and beats. This is global pop music on a massive scale. Opening track Adani is a good example of the albums range of disparate styles as it morphs from a dancehall influenced beat into a euphoric ravey climax careering to its finish on a huge dubstep breakdown.

‘Warm Heart of Africa’ featured notable guest vocals from Vampire Weekend’s Ezra Koenig and M.I.A. and again the duo employ the use of guest vocalists and collaborators. In keeping with the bigger feel of the album, the list of guest collaborators is far longer and wider with a range of voices coming and going. The list includes African stars K’NAAN, Amadou and Miriam, Baaba Mal, Seye Adelekan, MNEK. Moment Laudi and, rather incongruously, Winston Marshall of Mumford & Sons. The long cast never feel out of place at any point though and the many voices and influences all combine extremely well.

At the heart of ‘MTMTMK’ are a number of insanely addictive dance tracks. ‘Kodaine’ featuring Seye Adelekan is wonderfully exuberant while ‘Rudeboy’ and ‘We Ok’ featuring K’NAAN are perfect dance floor fillers that combine all the hooks of contemporary pop with those lovely African rhythms.

Where ’MTMTMK’ really gets interesting though is in the warped psychedelic of its darker moments. The distended groove of ‘Rumbae’ and the hypnotically meandering mix of guitar and vocals on ‘Bantu’ offer a whole new side to The Very Best. That side is perhaps best expressed in the eerie melodica and portentous vibe of ‘Mghetto’. This album shows that The Very Best are much more than just a celebratory party band.

‘MTMTMK’ may not quite carry the same dazzling shock of hearing something truly different in the way their debut did but it is certainly an album that carries on the spirit of the debut while progressing their sound at the same time.