Bambara – Stray

In their latest album Stray, BAMBARA takes us into a world of their own making. A dark and foreboding landscape full of dirty alleyways and shady nightclubs. Its denizens are no different, deranged murderers, sex workers and arsonists are lost in its filthy streets, trying to make sense of it all. It would be lazy to pigeonhole their sound into post punk, as this album is more than an aural experience, it’s an epic piece of literary work. The sound can be described as gothic and gloomy, with each guitar and guzzling bass line intent on painting a layer of smoke and haze, adding to the already grim landscape.  Its meat and potatoes are in the storytelling, each song follows a tightly woven narrative carried by Reid Bateh’s baritone vocals in a matter-of-fact tone, as if acting as an indifferent bystander or disappointed judge.

With the initial beats of “Miracle”, you’ll be sucked into its atmosphere. A cinematic score of strings lights up the scene in a noir setting, describing a day of our titular character. A femme fatale prepares for a night of dancing on the pole. The slide guitar chimes in with dread, describing the relationship between her and her patrons. “Sing Me to the Street” is a slow and slithering train ride towards the city. It feels like a soundtrack from the first season of True Detective with its jangly guitars and Bateh’s vocal-frying drawl. Female vocals linger in the background, providing temporary relief, an oasis in the dry and unforgiving dessert. “Serafina” is a frenetic rock romp that channels Johnny Cash and the folk traditions of character-driven songs. It tells a story of a dysfunctional relationship with a deranged girl who likes to play with fire. The hypnotizing guitar riffs and voo-doo like drum beats are perfect for “Death Croons” as it follows several characters as they encounter Death. Death seems entertained with each person, inviting them to have some fun as their impending doom looms closer. In “Stay Cruel” we revisit Miracle in her work, this time from the eyes of a customer. It’s a twisted masochistic fantasy, the closest track in this album to resemble a love song. The line “Try to stay cruel for me / just for another minute”, is seductive with a tinge of impending doom. The saxophone and slow groovy bass immerses us in a smoke filled nightclub where no good decisions are ever made.

You can’t get too much out of Stray by just having it play in the background, at some point you’ll need to pay attention to its narrative. Thankfully, there’s a finesse with each arrangement that keeps you curious, and soon enough you’ll get sucked in like the rest of us. BAMBARA has displayed in this latest offering that they have mastered their craft, and now they’re ready to push themselves and take on more adventurous routes, which is sure to please new listeners and avid fans alike.

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