The Very Best // MTMTMK // July 16 // Moshi Moshi
With the recent influence of afrobeat on western musicians you would think that the alternative crowds would be more welcoming to African acts. It’s been many years now since acts from the continent captured listeners’ imagination and controlled their feet movement. The closest thing to such tribal rhythms today happens to come from London. Esau Mwamwaya is originally from Malawi. He met his partners, swedish/french production duo Radioclit, while living in the capital of the UK. Mwamwaya is far away from his origins and on MTMTMK, their 2rd album it shows in the music.
The Very Best first hit the waves back in 2009 with the colourful Warm Heart Of Africa LP including the title track and one of the year’s highlights which featured another afro-pop obsessive Ezra Koenig. The music on that record felt positively tribal, the sort of stuff that creeps up on you with such an amount of positive energy that you are left dumbfounded when you realise that these people are actually from England. Since then they lost their french member, followed their explorations of the modern afrobeat with the amazingly titled Super Mom mixtape, but MTMTMK here is the real deal, the real follow up. The Very Best don’t sound that much like they did on the record, that is definitely the first thing you will realise. While Warm Heart Of Africa was quintessentially African record, MTMTMK feels like world music. Not that cultural expansion is bad but there are about five thousand other records that have fuzzy guitar solos and trance heaven synths in them. MTMTMK is african music seen through western eyes.
It really depends where your tastes lie before even trying to listen to this album. MTMTMK requires open mindedness to fully enjoy it. The Warm Heart Of Africa might have felt like a niche record but all these dance elements make MTMTMK more of a world record that is much easier to enjoy. Obviously it’s much less rewarding too. Tracks like Kondaine still have that warm heart of Africa but moments like Come Alive is something wouldn’t sound that much out of place in today’s clubs. Luckily a good part of the lyrics is not sung in English which adds that sense of getting lost in a foreign world that’s filled with fun. So when the dubstep wobbles drop in Mghetto, the language is both the thing that connects the most and one that takes you furthest away from such new found love of western nightclub themes. There’s moments of dub, a sprinkle of reggae, it’s quite surprising that this is a record that sounds so much like Africa, Jamaica and London and yet, it isn’t coming out on Diplo’s Mad Decent label. If the lyrics on MTMTMK were sung in english then this record wouldn’t get all the praise it is getting. Especially considering that Rumbae was co-written by Taio Cruz while We OK was created with the help of Bruno Mars. Even with pop abortions like those two behind a couple of tracks here and there, MTMTMK’s african rhythms meets western electronica packs more heart than your typical club land record.
You might just get the feeling the album is a bit too long, especially considering that track 13 is the remix of the track 11. It’s a penultimate track that brings you back to reality with its english intro that speaks of popping bottles and other vain but familiar western themes. The Very Best still possess the warm hearts that they are known for. It’s just that this time they emigrated to a big city and started to forget their origins in the turmoil of the dancefloor.