Twin sisters Naomi and Lisa-Kaindé Díaz landed a record deal after XL label chief Richard Russell watched a YouTube clip of one of their performances. It’s not hard to see why the 19-year-olds – who grew up in Paris and Cuba – might inspire excitement: their music combines African-American spirituals, West African folk, Cuban fusion and grimy hip-hop beats, and gives it all a glossy pop finish.
Ibeyi mirror their strong musical and cultural lineage with songs steeped in personal and familial history. The production is full of blank space that gives bottom-heavy beats, harmonies and delicate, jazzy vocal phrasing plenty of room to breathe. It’s a distinctive sound, and yet something is missing.
Songs like Faithful, Stranger/Love and Mama Says are full of heartfelt sentiment, but the vocal arrangements often come across as tepid and uninspired, especially compared to the album’s textured beats, which land with palpable physicality. There is an unexciting emphasis on precision and minimalism that saps the emotional heat from an otherwise interesting fusion of styles and sounds.
Top track: River
Ibeyi play the Drake Hotel on March 27.