Album Review: Ibaaku – Alien Cartoon [Akwaaba Music, 26th Jan 2016]

Alien Cartoon is Senegalese artist Ibaaku’s debut album. It consists of 11 pieces of raw electronic dance music, each a musical montage which engages the listener in Ibaaku’s grand musical vision.

The strength in Alien Cartoon’s pieces is Ibaaku’s ability to make beauty out of melding pleasant sounds and rhythms with what might be considered nuisance or noise, sounds we disregard when thinking about music. Ibaaku’s native Senegal has produced renowned artist Joe Oukam, who also produces beauty from what we discard and disregard, in his installations. Oukam makes his art this way as an alternative to traditional ‘Ecole de Dakar’ negritude Senegalese art, aiming to agitate his audience.

Perhaps Ibaaku wants to distance himself from the mbalax or even the Senegalese pop that we are accustomed to hearing, as well as agitating his audience. Ibaaku doesn’t go as far as Oukam; if he did, this music would be very hard to listen to.

These pieces are variations of the same musical idea. On some, we hear a woman stating the name “Ibaaku” with a great voice at the beginning. What follows is a cohesive melding of noise and sound that at times features anything from male laughter to the sound of buzzing flies, as on ‘Mouches Symphony’. ‘Llwaa’ melds high pitched industrial sounds and synths. Alien Cartoon’s pieces have easy to follow rhythms and this melding of noise and sound is nuanced. For other songs, such as ‘Mustik’, there is no woman stating the name “Ibaaku” at the piece’s beginning. However, the same cohesive melding of noise to and easily followed rhythm engage the listener’s body while pricking with sharp, odd, sounds.

These pieces are short and often feel like they have been abruptly cut off. This gives the piece a very fashion-forward texture, as if made for lives advertised in glossy fashion magazines. These songs were originally written for a fashion show and it might be the reason why they are so short.