Lisa-Kainde and Naomi Diaz (Ibeyi) are fairly new artists, but with their new album, the twins have created a sound that is both addictive and unique. “Ash” deals with the modern day struggle of misogyny. Their music combines Latin styled bass lines with hooks touting a clean, mellow electronic and jazz overtone that is simply a joy to listen to.
The opening song, “I Carried This for Years,” starts the album with an amazing harmony of voices, the hook coming in with a haunting, carol-esque background that supports the repeated phrase, “I carried this for years.” A drum line rolls in near the end of the song and drives the tone up exponentially. This structure of single repeated lyrics and accompanying sounds remains constant throughout the album.
The hopeful track “Away Away” is infused with resilience and persistence in its lyrics. It also introduces an Afro-Cuban inspired drumbeat. The solemn and reserved electronic vibe stays in your ears long after you finish listening.
Possibly one of the best tracks on the album is “Deathless (feat. Kamasi Washington).” The song details the wrongful arrest of a woman of color. The eerie chorus digs itself a nice hole for the listener to come back to after each detail of the story is slowly revealed. Kamasi Washington, a saxophonist with a long track record in the music industry, participating in Kendrick Lamar’s “To Pimp a Butterfly” last year, lends his skills to create a nice contrast between the haunting, consistent vocals, and a more free-form sax melody.
In “I Wanna Be Like You,” a layered and deep bass line accompanies the soothing lyrics sung by the twins.
The next track, “No Man is Big Enough For My Arms,” overshadows the previous song. The track emphasizes Ibeyi’s message on ending societal misogyny. The sampling of a speech by Michelle Obama with the repeated line, “the measure of any society is how it treats its women and girls” solidifies this message. The offbeat blending in the track makes for an enthralling listen, but does not quite stick to the quality of casual listening brought on by the other tracks.
The next song, “Valé,” is, unfortunately, a forgettable piece. About letting go, the sound of the track is uninteresting, save for the brilliant vocals. However, Ibeyi sounds their grittiest here, and it is a nice change of pace for the album.
“Waves” is the worst song on the album, entirely forgoing any kind of percussion or storytelling. Without these elements, the twins and the synth sound empty.
“Transmission/Michaelion (feat. Meshell Ndegeocello)” is one of the longer songs, but despite its proportionally lengthy stay, it does not leave its mark.
“Me Voy (feat. Mala Rodríguez)” brings back the faster and brighter tones of the album’s sound. The balance of the rhythmic beat mixed with the high pitched and modulated Spanish creates a rich sense of pure fun.
“When Will I Learn (feat. Chilly Gonzales)” utilizes a heavily-modulated, Daft Punk-esque hook and deep, thumping percussion to attract the listener. It works to some extent but still feels to lack the depth of the rhythms in earlier songs.
“Numb” and “Ash” sadly blend together, due to both of them having a similar sound. The music in the actual tracks is not exceptional in any way, but it is not particularly displeasing, either. Listeners could thoroughly enjoy the drum beat; however, it is sad to end a great album with such mediocre and bland songs.
Though not without its weak points, “Ash” is a wonderfully crafted album. It finds itself leaping and striding when the right balance is found between harmonies, Ibeyi’s astounding percussion and, when done thoughtfully, engaging storytelling and social commentary. This album is definitely worth a listen; its overall sound is well-focused and the themes are clear and enjoyable, even if it does drop the ball in a few places.