If you’re still feeling the cold grey fingers of January and yearn for brighter evenings and warmer days, then I can wholeheartedly recommend Dowdelin’s new album Lanmou Lanmou which radiates with enough solar energy to emulate taking high-dose Vitamin D tablets whilst sitting under a sunlamp in a heatwave. Dowdelin are based in Lyon and describe themselves as ‘Creole afro-futurists’, championing the present-day sounds of the Caribbean. Given the energetic music they produce, the band’s name is ironic as it derives from the Creole French ‘dodeliner’ and the English word ‘dawdling’ which mean slow or idle.
Dowdelin were formed by multi-instrumentalist and producer, David Kiledjian who brought together Lyon-based singer Olivya Victorin, French-Guadeloupean drummer and saxophonist Raphaël Philibert and drummer Greg Boudras to form a band that used touring and playing live to refine their sound. Kiledjian says “The first album, we were still figuring out our sound but here, everybody in the band understood their role and the kind of music we’re dealing with. I think that is what made this record more alive, organic and danceable”.
From the tight syncopation of percussion and vocals on tracks like the opener ‘Lanmou Lanmou’ and ‘Mama Wé’ to the loose swish of ‘Simé Love’, ‘Shadow On The Wall’ or ‘Yo Wé’, there is a precision to their playing that never sacrifices their preternatural ability to swing. They can drop down to a burble before launching back into staccato accents like a well-planned firework display. There are close harmonies, steel drums and shifting chord progressions that meld the more Western pop and Jazz Funk with the irresistible rhythm of Africa and the Caribbean. From the dancehall of ‘Tan Nou’, the typewriter speed of ‘Mama Wé’ through to the more traditional arrangement of ‘On Nou Alé’ and the reggae influence on ‘Somebody New’, the band wear their influences well and say “When we play, we represent the possibility of hearing the same melodies in traditional African music, as we do in music from the west today. To adopt the language of our roots and the global majority, with that of the country in which we live, is a reminder of the cultural hybrids that all of us are” and bring together “Coltrane, Clinton, and Kendrick amplified via music from the French West Indies; gwo-ka, dancehall and beguine”
There is more infectious bounce on this album than if you set your trampoline up on top of a bouncy castle, and I cannot imagine anyone listening to Lanmou Lanmou and not, at the very least, tapping their feet along; but it’s more likely that you’ll get so swept up in the moment it will lead to a full on hip swaying, arms in air reverie that will only be interrupted when you realise the rest of the train carriage is staring at you.
The band will playing in the UK as part of the Hay On Wye How The Light Gets In festival in June.
Review by Paul F Cook