Words by the ever erudite Adam Turner.
The Balek Band – from the French city of Nantes – are a four piece built around synths and drum machines, plus live bass, guitar, and percussion – the ‘real’ instruments and electronics fully integrated. The group’s second album, Medecines, is a 54-minute, 9-track journey, infused with their influences, energy, and far-reaching sense of adventure. Cosmic disco, Balearic, house, nu disco – if it can be named, then The Balek Band can play it. Medecines is packed fat with funky bass-lines, kicks, and percussion, aimed at the heart of the floor – with those synths and guitars providing colour, texture, and layers of sound effects, along with the sampled surf and birdsong. Opening song, Introspection, lulls us in gently as synthetic washes and a soft tinkling backdrop a female vocal. It`s a beatless, blissed-out 3-minute semi-ambient starting point. This fades out and Charbon Alcool fades in, sounding a little like dubnobasswithmyheadman-era Underworld – a distant voice making some kind of announcement, and then as it gathers pace, the band’s funk and disco influences shine through. From hereon in it’s all multi-national, progressive sounds, and cross pollination, inspiration pulled from vast record collections and crazy nights out – the music as brightly coloured as the album’s psychedelic photo-collage sleeve.
The chopped up, echo laden vocals and clattering hand drums of Balek Zouk achieve lift off. It`s an upbeat, monstrous groove, with the bass pumping away. Blanc Nuit rumbles in like A Certain Ratio – all funked up with choppy guitar and cowbell. The Balek Bad starts out low key, and with some menace – a darker counterpoint to some of the more tropical, festival friendly grooves. A piano line takes over while the background FX spin about. Whispers in the swirl of sound.
On Lenteur the cosmic disco kicks in, exotic birdcalls and a rumbling low-end, and a deep, dark, seven minute expedition unfolds. With lots of momentum, but in no particular hurry to get anywhere too quickly either, it`s not too far from Rheinzand’s uptempo Balearic pop. Cosmic Barry sets off like a speedboat that’s become suddenly unmoored, the drum machine thumping away under a disco b-line and wah-wah guitar. Closing track Kenesam kicks back a bit – a slower, sparser, more relaxed fit, a groove with Afro axe riffs, that ever present pulsing bass.
The Balek Band’s Medecines is out now, on Abstrack Records.
You can find more fine prose from Adam Turner over at his own brilliant blog, The Bagging Area.