- A vibrant house album that beautifully celebrates rhythms, collaboration and musical history.
- Fusions abound on Conclave, the magnificent self-titled debut album from a collective of New York City musicians led by DJ and multi-instrumentalist Cesar Toribio. The first one is in the name: "conclave" is a deep-cut synonym for "meeting" that describes the coming together of like-minded folks. A conclave of seven people are credited on the album, which is the first LP release from Love Injection Records. The label is a conclave, too, an offshoot of the beloved dance music zine serving as a point of fusion for New York's underground.
Next layer: here, conclave is also a combination of two Spanish words, con and clave. Clave will be familiar to many listeners (and readers), but opening track "Intro" nonetheless provides an explanation in the form of a spoken-word piece laying out the album's underpinnings. As Toribio and collaborator Maria Padilla tell it, the clave is many things: an instrument (two thick wooden sticks) foundational to Afro-Caribbean music; the syncopated rhythms played with that instrument; and, in literal translation, key or code—a method of unlocking. "En conclusión," Toribio and Padilla intone, "la clave es la llave musical o patrón rítmico que revela la posición de todo en tiempo y en espacio." It reveals the position of everything in time and space.
Over the following 11 tracks, Toribio and his compatriots take us on that revelatory journey. The LP winds through house, funk and jazz in particular, but in fusing them creates its own sonic world. There's the restrained, nimble "Habla," led by a staccato bassline punctuated occasionally with horns. "Twice" is an unrecognizable cover of the Little Dragon favorite, turning a melancholic lament into a wistful but playful downtempo funk. Early single "There's Enough" takes an unexpected turn into a guitar riff that, somehow, doesn't disrupt its dance floor potential. Clave appears on almost every track, spurring an undeniable urge to move your body in response.
Nowhere is interconnectedness clearer than on crescendo track "Alati Yeye Chege," a transcendent, explosive meeting of the album's many themes. A shimmery house groove kicks things off before blooming into a wide-ranging jam, with synths, Rhodes, percussion and handclaps fluttering up as Toribio croons lyrics that switch between Yoruba and Spanish. Running underneath it all, clave and four-to-the-floor kicks hold the track steady, pairing two points in a centuries-long lineage of rhythms. Woven together, they collapse time and space to reveal a continuity of joy.
At its core, Conclave is a narrative of the African diaspora, tracing musical traditions from Nigeria, through the Dominican Republic, to New Orleans, Chicago, Detroit and New York, reminding listeners that Black music from around the world is the root of most of what we enjoy today. It would be tempting to call this a musical argument. But it doesn't need to be argued—it's simply a fact the record gracefully lays before us.
Concept albums often sacrifice music on the altar of ideas, leaning heavily on flowery liner notes and press releases for cohesion. Conclave is the rare LP where adding a conceptual framework sweetens an already wonderful collection of songs. To listen with the knowledge of its creators' intention is to be welcomed into their conclave, an invitation well worth taking. As Toribio sings on the third track: "Relax yourself and stay a while."
04. Twice video
05. All That I Need feat. Sharin
06. There's Enough
08. Rise (Interlude)
10. Alati Yeye Chege
11. Take Heed (Nu Sunlight)