‘afriyie’, the latest record from kae sun mixes west african rhythms, reggae, synths, and folk for a sound all his own. #soundcheck

June 19, 2013

West African rhythms collide with a reggae feel, mixing analog synths and acoustic guitars on the latest from Ghanaian-born singer-songwriter Kae Sun. Afriyie opens with the transcendent and meditative “Blackstar Rising.” One of the softer tracks on a record filled with ebullient danceable tracks, it’s an oddly bold move. But it sets the tone for the rest of the record. Kae Sun makes oddly bold choices left and right on Afriyie and he pulls them off one after another.

The record kicks into high gear with the (appropriately named) 2nd track “Heart Healing Pulse.” An insistent beat matches Kae Sun’s silky voice, and the dense atmosphere of “Blackstar Rising” gives way to a tight dance track. This 1-2 punch is followed by “Lion Unleashed,” a reggae track complete with apocalyptic lyrics. These are the three faces of Kae Sun, the moody electro-folk troubadour, the joyous pop singer, and the reggae rebel. He’s far from the first to try to nail this trifecta (it’s more or less what Matisyahu was going for), but Kae Sun is one of the few to make it all sound like it’s the same artist.

Afriyie is packed with great tunes. From the syncopated “Weh-Weh” to the rebellious “Dzorwulu Junction,” Kae Sun hides a surprising amount of sonic depth in his compositions. This is the rare record that lives equally well on the dancefloor as between a big set of headphones.

– Words by Nathan Leigh