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Antibalas, the Brooklyn-based leaders of the Afrobeat revival movement (take a good look at how many Afrobeat bands have come along since them if you believe otherwise), has returned after a five-year absence from recording. Not that they were truly gone, it’s just that some of the band members had irons in different fires, like providing music for the Broadway musical “Fela!,” playing with a staggering array of other musical artists and such side projects as saxophonist/leader Martin Perna’s Afro/Latin/psychedelic Ocote Soul Sounds. Choosing an eponymous title for this, their fifth album, can be seen as a sign that the band is looking to get back to the raw passion that established them as topflight Afrobeat practitioners in the first place. If that’s the case, it’s working for them. From the measured, slow-or-fast burning grooves to the female response vocals that answer front man Amayo’s calls, Antibalas sounds as fresh and invigorating as their Liberation Afrobeat Vol. 1 debut from a dozen years ago.

All the hallmarks of Afrobeat are here: the polyrhythmic drums and percussion foundation, the tartly funky bass and guitar patterns, horns that pack the power of a charging rhino, pre-digital keyboards and songs in which lyrics enter the picture only once the band is jamming on all cylinders. As for the lyrics themselves, they’re the same sort of shrewd balance of parabolic reasoning and wry social commentary that gave Fela his forum (though a song like “Dirty Money” hardly requires subtlety to make its point). Recorded mostly live, the disc has a nicely unpolished feel, but I may well not be alone in thinking that the six tracks could have benefited from being a little longer. Not for the purpose of slavishly emulating the epic-length pieces that Fela so often put forth, but rather to emphasize to the fullest how very tight and hot an ensemble Antibalas can be when all thoughts of running time take a back seat to pure locomotive power. Such a quibble aside, this is a mighty nyash-shaker of a release by a group that proves they’ve still got it and know how to work it in finest Afrobeat style. -Tom Orr

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