The first thing that strikes you about the new Red Snapper album is how much the band have raised their game. There’s no reason why bands shouldn’t get better over time, it’s just that a lot of names don’t stay hungry and creative.
To start with it’s a great idea; an album inspired by the band’s recent soundtrack for cult 70s Senegalese road movie “Touki Bouki” – the first independent African film which was recently restored by Martin Scorcese and which is first and foremost an afro-funk odyssey in itself.
Red Snapper have toured with the film for a year, playing the soundtrack live to audiences across Europe; themes from the score having been developed and extended to form Hyena. Hitting the studio at the end of this long haul on the road has delivered a super-tight energized performance, reminiscent of a 1970’s approach to recording.
And the 70’s are all over this soundtrack, combining beautifully with a cutting edge futuristic musicality that sets Red Snapper apart. From the opening cut – Card Trick – there’s a strong evocation of electric Miles Davis. Ali Friend’s succulent bass leaves all the space intact for David Ayers’ driving wah wah chops and Tom Challenger’s ring-mod keyboards. Rich Thair’s drums blend the rhythms of blaxploitation and afro-beat effortlessly. But still the sound is as contemporary and innovative as you would expect from the band.
A real game changer here has been the addition of more keyboard experimentation in the Red Snapper mix. There is a new musicality to the group – the album is packed with strong melodic ideas from all sides.
Ali Friend’s vocals are quite a feature in several tracks and he’s someone who knows how to use the timbre of his voice well, always poignant, never overdone. And on the track ‘Traffic’ Ali whips out the electric bass for a change. The results are blisteringly funky.
Hyena is a reflection of Red Snapper’s work over the last two decades. They don’t just pull it off, they make it sound easy, and that must be the result of touring hard before putting the tracks to tape.
This is more than a soundtrack….. Hyena is a timeless, African influenced album which has as much to do with the future as it has the past.