Looping flute licks and Afrocentric beats is the foundation of what Esinam Dogbatse does, and that approach remains present in the best tracks on her new album. With a dozen or so groups on her curriculum vitae, aside from her solo work, collaboration should be familiar territory for the Belgian-Ghanaian flutist, singer and producer. On this new album, however, expansion to more conventional band sound proves unsatisfying, as revealed by the light, excessively mercurial jazz-funk of “Lost Dimensions”, or the rock stylings that emerge from amid the initial cascading vibraphone of “Birds Fly”. “Flowing River”, contrasting Esinam’s flute loops with the Zulu folk of South African guest Sibusile Xaba, doesn’t quite click, for all its prettiness. “Let It Be”, on the other hand, works well, seemingly extracted from the mists of the mid-’70s. The lush, spacious “Deep in my Soul”, a tune that never seems to quite set foot on solid ground, spotlights Esinam’s singing voice. The strongest cards are played early on, where her flute playing is straightforward, sturdy and highly expressive, and the same can be said of the rhythms she builds. The excellent first single “New Dawn” exemplifies the simple but effective approach, shifting gears in in its final moments to make room for the lilting sprechgesang of British-Sierra Leonean polyvalent Nadeem Din-Gabisi. The firm but gentle “Morning Memories” is a keeper as well, as are the record’s bookends, the playfully punchy “Prologue” and its sibling “Epilogue”, which wraps the matter up with uncharacteristic but cathartic crashing and banging.
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