Thursday 9 November 2023

'Big Words' by Alpacas Collective

'Big Words' - the second full-length from the Alpacas Collective finds us a mere nineteen months removed from the group's debut release which set the band on their first steps towards their ongoing musical evolution.

'Seven Wisdoms of Plutonia' introduced listeners to the Belgian musical ensemble by way of their ambitious and vast outlook that saw their music rooted amidst a variety of cultures and eras including 60s and 70s Ethiopian styles and compositions, afrobeat and US style funk.  The album's imaginative concept positioned us within the fictional setting of Plutonia as conceived by Russian author Vladimir Obruchev in his 1924 'Journey to the Center of the Earth'-styled novel.  

With the band's sophomore album release having been unveiled so soon after their debut, the Alpacas Collective are on par to solidifying themselves as diverse and shining examples of contemporary afrobeat and funk.  While 'Seven Wisdoms of Plutonia' and now 'Big Words' have revelled within the aforementioned, more focused afrobeat aesthetic, the music and their concepts have always been given enough room to be interpreted within varying styles and genres.  The band's 'Stranger to Myself' remix EP serves as a shining example – released earlier this year, the EP featured the eclectic skill sets of Nyumo and Dr Fre who steered the Alpacas soundscapes into considerably more electronic territory but in ways that continued to make sense to the groundwork the band had already laid. 

As an ongoing concept, 'Big Words' moves the collective on from the fantasy settings and imaginary lands of its predecessor to the more stark and abrasive contexts of our everyday politically corrupt and morally bankrupt world.  The album title, and subsequent title track, even serves as a Fela Kuti-inspired stance about a disillusioned society and the continuing lack of faith within self-serving governments and political systems.  Steered by a rousing vocal from Belgian vocalist and musician, Alain Louie, the charging afrobeat number serves as the centrepiece for the whole album brilliantly conveying its message.

Once again, 'Big Words' succeeds with its versatility - from the album opener 'Gunkali' we're instantly met with a searing sitar performance within the song's first few moments that captures your imagination to glorious effect.  Another excellent vocal contribution comes from Nèg Madnick who guests on 'Movéfèzè' - another track that continues with the notion of deceit, the title translates to "villains" from the Creole usage here and sees Madnick addressing rich landowners and their negative impact on his Caribbean home of La Martinique.

And then there's the epic presentation of 'Bhimpalasi' - clocking in at just under ten minutes, the sensational number serves as its own self-contained adventure with an awesome journey across styles and tempos, and bolstered by fantastic band solos throughout.  A real masterpiece of a track and an absolute gem within the Alpacas treasure chest.

The album delivers as another fantastic outing from the Alpacas Collective and while 'Big Words' may root listeners more within the realistic settings of our everyday worlds over that of the fantasy from their first release, there is no less imagination or passion that has gone into the music as a result. 

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