Antibalas, Black Bear Combo | Lincoln Hall | International | Chicago Reader
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Antibalas, Black Bear Combo 

When: Thu., Sept. 13, 9 p.m. 2012
Price: $20
In the five years since Brooklyn Afrobeat disciples Antibalas released their previous album, the band's members have stayed busy, spreading out far and wide both geographically and musically. Some have moved away from New York, and others have carried on with old side projects or gotten involved with new ones—including the musical Fela!, about Nigerian Afrobeat pioneer Fela Anikulapo Kuti. But last month Antibalas returned with a fantastic new self-titled album that's a sort of homecoming—it was recorded at the same studio as some of their early material and produced by original guitarist Gabriel Roth (aka Dap-Kings bassist Bosco Mann, who left Antibalas in the mid-aughts), who released it on his Daptone label. The band also focuses more tightly on the hard-core Afrobeat at the foundation of its sound, muting the outside flavors (Santeria chants, electronic dub effects, et cetera) that have crept in on previous albums. On Antibalas their playing is sharper and more exciting than ever, and the fiercely rhythmic arrangements are their strongest and most detailed yet, shifting from bar to bar so that one instrument might finish a phrase started by another; the horns all carve out their own spaces, rather than spending so much of their time playing massed riffs. No other extant Afrobeat band is this good or this vital—as sacrilegious as it feels to say, sometimes I think they play it better than Fela. Singer Abraham Amayo brings a charismatic, hectoring delivery to the band's politically charged chants, but it's the instrumentalists who really put the music over the top: Victor Axelrod's jacked-up organ and electric piano slashes against drum-tight brass blasts, and the cross-cutting guitars of Luke O'Malley and Marcos Garcia fit like puzzle pieces into the dense polyrhythms of drummer Miles Arntzen and percussionist Marcus Farrar. —Peter Margasak Black Bear Combo opens.

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