With Walo Walo, former Basic Channel member Mark Ernestus forges ahead in his decades-long exploration of African rhythms—the pursuit that began with Rhythm & Sound and led to his current obsession with mbalax, a Senagalese and Gambian style he introduced to European audiences when he teamed up with the band Jeri-Jeri. That collective has since evolved into Mark Ernestus' Ndagga Rhythm Force, a group that describes itself as an "expression of a dream Dakar-Berlin nexus." Walo Walo is their third EP, and a preview of their debut album, which is due out later in 2016.
Walo Walo's title track has all the hallmarks of the past Ndagga releases: rippling grooves played on hand percussion, with production so crisp you can't help but imagine the players in the studio. This time, though, there's a bit more club oomph, with thundering kicks and sonorous claps buttressing the fluid beats. This one comes with or without scattered lyrics, as "Walo Walo Version" and "Walo Walo Rhythm." "Ndiguel Groove" rides a fluttering backbeat played on a drum kit, reinforced with a classic 4/4 techno pulse. Cascades of hand percussion fall into the mix, complementing the spits of reverb-heavy guitar. Beyond the flawless production, Ernestus's role is understated. It seems his goal is not only to create a hybrid of African and European sounds, but also to simply shine a light on the band—Abdourakhmane Fall, Assane Ndoye Cisse, Ibou Mbaye, Laye Lo, Mbene Diatta Seck, Modou Mbaye—and the musical world they come from. On both fronts, it succeeds.