Album Review: Nubiyan Twist – Siren Song [Wormfood Records, 27th May 2016]

Following their highly celebrated debut album in 2015, the eclectic 12-piece band from Leeds, Nubiyan Twist, is back with their new EP, Siren Song. And what an apt name for this second album, which allures and entices its listeners in many unexpected ways, from its dance-inducing funk groves and intoxicating brass band wails to its hypnotic multipart harmonies and seductive shimmers of smooth jazz.

As such, Nubiyan Twist can’t be contained to one particular genre because they are constantly evolving. This EP leans more towards neo-soul and ska, but also features a more jazzy and delicate sound.

Consisting of a mix of musicians – DJs and producers with diverse backgrounds ranging from jazz, reggae, soul, afro-beat and latin rhythms – it’s no surprise that the band comes fully equipped with a plethora of sounds, accompanied by line after line of eccentric lyrics that never fail to excite.

The title track builds upon a bass line originally used by baritone saxophonist Joe Henwood for sound checks. It is an upbeat funk tune showcasing the band’s trademark power and afro-beat sound, interspersed with turntable scratching by Tom Davison.

It’s a different kind of siren song which entices not with a sweet, soothing voice as one typically expects, but instead through Nubiya’s vocal dexterity. Her rapping of a string of quirky lyrics impresses, before our senses are overwhelmed with an impressive solo improvisation by tenor saxophonist Denis Scully which finishes with an explosive brass band flourish.

‘Headhunter’ is a bouncy ska track featuring an unusual use of Latin percussion, accompanied by the band’s quirky music video featuring characters in different animal suits and cardboard masks being chased around town. Following track ‘Crocodile’ offers a contrast in tempo, and is an unusual and fun track to listen to. Its chill, groovy and pink-panther-like instrumentals are peppered with Nubiya’s instructional speech, which interacts with the rest of the band, as they punctuate, respond and comment on her words.

Their longest and most rhythmically invigorating track, ‘Him Himself’, is a thoroughly composed piece featuring Brazilian vocalist and percussionist Pilo Adami. It’s intoxicating, moving through several musical styles, and is mainly instrumental with the exception of a brief and bold vocal interlude by Adami in Portuguese.

Just when you think the track is over, the band surprises again with an otherworldly soundscape of electronics and voices. Special mention however, goes to the crisp drum work of percussionist Finn Booth, for keeping this overwhelming soundscape together.

Finally, ‘Work House Mode’ is a completely stripped down reworking of their piece ‘Work House’ (2015), and comes complete with a gorgeous jazz piano backing by Oliver Cadman. It’s full of beautiful harmonies, topped off with Nubiya’s vocals, oozing with richness, and it ends as introspectively as it began. This final track is an unexpected though pleasantly surprising change, and is perhaps the most alluring and dangerously enticing one of all.