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RECORDED

Antibalas “Security”

by Nicholas Coldicott

The fourth album from Afrobeat standard-bearers Antibalas comes roaring in with a fanfare of battle horns over razor-sharp breakbeats on the aptly named opening track “Beaten Metal.” LPs don’t open much more ferociously than this. Next comes “Filibuster X,” the track that will best please the Afrobeat fanbase, with plenty of polyrhythms and political soapboxing. But then they twist into unexpected territory. The remainder of the album shows a jazzy maturity, with hard bop and freeform brass as well as glimpses of reggae, Latin and 21st-century breaks. It’s the most adventurous outing yet for the Brooklyn 12-piece, perhaps thanks to Tortoise’s multi-instrumentalist John McEntire being in the production chair, and is a sonic rebuke to anyone who would dismiss them as mere Fela Kuti revivalists.

Less experimental are the lyrics. As before, the agit-funkers restrict themselves to chanting a few easy swipes at America’s vice president. But it’s a sign of how keen they are to push beyond the Afrobeat boundaries that the most vitriolic lyrics are backed by the album’s most cheerful tune. “War Hero” tears into the “democracy-spreading” rationale of recent wars, but it’s backed by upbeat Afro-pop and what sounds like a vintage Casio keyboard. By the time things wrap up with the slow, mournful brass of “Age,” “Security” has swung through myriad moods, genres and instruments to produce Antibalas’ best album to date — and their first that doesn’t ask to be qualified with “would sound great live.”