The one time I saw Nubiyan Twist live was at the Vox Warehouse in Leeds, at Raise the Roof festival which saw them follow on at some point in the early hours of the night from legendary two tone band The Beat. Following on from such a seasoned and always brilliant live band can be a challenge but they rose to the occasion and, with numerous cans of Red Stripe, hash joints and a bag of shrooms in my system, I danced the night away to the swirling wall of sounds created by the multitude of musicians on stage.
It was one of the high points of that particular period in my gig going life and, a good couple of years later, I jumped at the opportunity to review their new Siren Song EP; would it stand up to the test of my frankly hammered memories? Happily, it does. With a wide array of musicians involved at any one time (at least ten people were on stage the time I caught them), Nubiyan Twist form a formidable wall of sound; a melting pot of afrobeat, funk, ska, jazz, hip hop and more which reflects the number of people involved in the creative process and which is held together by both the incredible, focused musicianship of all involved and by Nubiya Brandon's sultry vocals.
Siren Song lays out its mission statement with the bass driven funk of 'Crocodile', a Fela Kuti influenced horn section and smooth rhythm anchoring Nubiya's drawn vocal meander which sucks the listener in immediately. Just as the rhythm has you nice and laid back, ready to nurse a straight whiskey at the bar, 'Headhunter' kicks in with a bouncier, more driving beat to get you right back on your feet and having a beer and a boogie. This is the EP's obvious lead point, evocative of BBQs and chronic smoke, and guaranteed to get anyone who isn't clinically dead / on a massive whitey at the very least tapping their toes.
'Him Himself' picks up the pace even further; a heady intoxicating swirl of sound destined to become a staple of afrobeat DJs the country over and with only a brief vocal interlude on a mostly instrumental testament to the group's cohesion of sound. The album's namesake, meanwhile, is another obvious single cut - a similarly paced piece of uplifting funk which takes full advantage of Nubiya's lung capacity.
The finale, 'Work House Mode', is a dizzying change of pace from the rest of the record which somehow chimes perfectly with its predecessors. Smooth jazz which you can perfectly hear sampled by A Tribe Called Quest or The Pharcyde at their peak, despite its inception many years past that era. It brings a close to proceedings with nonchalant insouciance and, despite Nubiya's repeated refrain of “I can't give you anything”, Nubiyan Twist has given a hefty amount in the 25 minutes the EP lasts for. This one comes highly recommended.