Reviews March 5, 2015
The new self-titled record by Ibeyi never stops reminding you of its potential. The twin sisters behind the group, Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Diaz, chose the moniker the Yoruba word for twins, and fittingly, Yoruba culture is the rhythmic ground from which the Afro-Cuban and Brazilian claves originally grew. It's a short lineage to trace from the sisters' home in the Montparnasse section of Paris to the musical cultures where the clave first took root—their father is Miguel "Angá" Diaz, the late percussionist for Cuba's Buena Vista Social Club. Of course, potential is a double-edged sword. Those with the most of it—the good backstory, the musical family, the serious hype, the incredible style—run the risk of disappointing listeners with simple adequacy. And it's not that this album is disappointing; it isn't. But with all of the above, it's difficult just to manage those expectations. You have to review the album they made, not the album you wish that they made. And the album they made, Ibeyi, is very smooth, very cosmopolitan, very mellow. Any traditional influences, either Cuban or Yoruba, are worn lightly, and the end result lands somewhere on a spectrum of Lorde to Björk in modern pop sensibility, which is to say it's very good, if not the most distinctive thing in the world. The Diaz sisters have complementary and lovely voices, which the unobtrusive electronic production never overpowers or obscures. It's music that seems destined for a long life in the coffee-shop rotation—for good or bad. It's their first album and there's a lot to be excited about with Ibeyi going forward. It's just that not everything that's exciting about them is on record yet.