CD Review | Electro-Afro-pop

The Very Best, ‘MTMTMK’

The Very Best’s second album, “MTMTMK,” finds the group in a substantially altered state from its 2009 debut, “Warm Heart of Africa.” Etienne Tron has departed, leaving the duo of Swedish producer Johan Hugo and Malawian singer Esau Mwamwaya; the sound has grown thicker and more synthetic, laced with Auto-Tune and other effects. This doesn’t make “MTMTMK” any less African —
recorded in Malawi, it dabbles in the kind of commercial electropop that’s coming up all over the continent — but it costs the band some of its earlier warmth and subtlety. The best tracks, like the opener, “Adani,” or “Bantu,” featuring Amadou and Mariam and Baaba Maal, have an experimental appeal. By contrast, “Rumbae” is ruined by a chorus that’s sonically weak and unnecessarily vulgar. It’s OK for the Very Best to head in this synthetic, party-jam direction, but if that’s what you like, there are other crews, for instance in Nigeria, doing the same thing with more swagger and panache. (Out Tuesday)

Siddhartha Mitter


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