Ahmad Gallab has racked up a fair amount of mileage as touring percussionist-for-hire with established indie headliners Of Montreal, Yeasayer and Caribou, though that’s easily the least interesting thing about the multi-instrumentalist who performs under the name Sinkane. The New York-based musician may very well be just one name in an ungodly long Brooklyn musicians’ phone book, though he arrived there by way of Ohio, after his family emigrated from Sudan. His pseudonym is a misheard variation on Cinqué, aka Joseph Cinqué, leader of the Amistad revolt, as heard in a Kanye West song, no less. And Mars, his third album, trades the post-rock sound he previously explored in favor of a dub and Afrobeat-influenced funk, and is one of the only albums to include members of both neo-Afrobeat band Nomo and progressive metalcore outfit Shai Hulud.
That’s a lot to process going into Mars, but in spite of Gallab’s history and long list of collaborators (which also include members of Yeasayer, Savath and Savalas, and Twin Shadow’s George Lewis Jr.), it’s an album that grooves easily and never feels overbearing or overwrought. A pervading sense of cool permeates every track, like that just-right buzz after the second cocktail, sleeves rolled up and windows open. Mars simply feels good.
For how effortlessly it flows, however, the album finds Sinkane showing off an astonishing amount of range, rarely doing the same thing twice across its eight tracks. But there is a common thread — the groove. Though the songs don’t sound alike, spiritually they retain a kinship, whether in the deep funk of “Runnin’,” the psychedelic highlife of “Jeeper Creeper,” the tropical space-pulse of “Making Time,” or “Love Sick”‘s dub-kraut, which incorporates a sample of Can’s “Spoon” as a metronomic tone setter. There’s a mixtape feel to it all, which proves particularly enthralling considering Gallab and his cast of collaborators pull it off so strongly and with such nonchalance. Mars is, perhaps, not the most strictly cohesive collection of songs, but in the persistently blissed-out vibe they perpetuate, they all seem to make perfect sense together.
It’s hard to find fault with a record that both sounds and feels as good as Mars does, though it certainly leaves a lot of room for growth or tightening up. Too many good ideas is always better than not enough, though, and that bodes well for Gallab. The fact that he’s released an album that outshines those of some of his tourmates is all the argument one needs to keep him at the front of the stage.
Stream: Sinkane – “Jeeper Creeper”
Jeff Terich is the founder and editor of Treble. He's been writing about music for 20 years and has been published at American Songwriter, Bandcamp Daily, Reverb, Spin, Stereogum, uDiscoverMusic, VinylMePlease and some others that he's forgetting right now. He's still not tired of it.