The most delightful pleasures cloy without variety. Sinkane is variety personified. Otherwise known as Ahmed Gallab, Sinkane was born in London of Sudanese descent. Soon after his birth he moved back to the Sudan with his family, but they soon made their made their way to the United States when he was six. Mean Love is his fourth album since 2008 but in that time he has also had stints with Caribou, Yeasayer, and Of Montreal.
Most impressively, he acts as musical director of ATOMIC BOMB! The Music of William Onyeabor, a touring supergroup that pays tribute to the elusive Nigerian synth-funk pioneer. That’s some CV. All this merges into an album that is as eclectic as it is melodic, drawing influence from diverse influences as unlikely as country to French pop folk to Sudanese traditional music to reggae. However, the records biggest surprise is in how it coheres so seamlessly together. No mean feat.
Take the transition from opener “How We Be” into the “New Name”. “How We Be” is synth heavy, sultry, and seductive with a heavy dose of funk for good measure. It’s like a crawling king snake winding it’s way through the undergrowth, not on the hunt, just taking in it’s surroundings. In stark contrast “New Name” begins with a tribal shout and urgent African sounding percussion. The percussion imbues the song with an urgency and direction that is accentuated by the horn section that punctuates Sinkane’s smooth vocals. Strangely, instead of the change being jarring it seems perfectly natural.
This genre hopping is present throughout the whole record. “Moonstruck” has a French pop folk vibe exemplified by plucked acoustic guitar and Sinkane’s French lyrics. Altogether it’s reminiscent of Seu Jorge’s David Bowie covers for The Life Aquatic soundtrack. Meanwhile, the title track sports a country esque slide guitar line over a soulful ballad. It’s what my dad would call a “clinger”. Definitely one for when you get a girl back to yours on the third date. “Galley Boys” continues the western vibe. Again the Ben Keith slide guitar is pushed to the fore as Sinkane laments a failing relationship. It sounds like Harvest era Neil Young after a safari.
I could go on. “Omdurman” (named for the largest city in the Sudan) somewhere melds a circus esque organ line with trumpet, while “Young Trouble” is a synth reggae track complimented perfectly with gorgeous backing harmonies. Essentially, the album is so eclectic that each track stands out on its own merits and yet, remarkably, holds together without feeling like anything has been shoehorned into proceedings for the sake of being diverse. In short, it never cloys. Sinkane is an alchemist. Mean Love is his philosopher’s stone.