The Brooklyn-based group Bambara’s latest album Stray packs incredibly luscious, confident groove, abruptly catchy drum rhythm, and more, all of which gets topped off by the alluringly resigned anxiety of frontman Reid Bateh’s sultry, dynamically swaggering vocals. Throughout the record, he consistently sticks to an understated and clean but perfectly wavering tone that solidifies the barely contained emotional chaos at the core of this record. On this album, Bambara never really get traditionally loud. Instead, they fill the runtime with their emotional grime-soaked, sometimes otherworldly contemplations of what feels like living outside the clean and pristine parts of society at-large.
The opening track, “Miracle,” seems to tell the tale of a female club dancer from her self-confident perspective, which effectively and memorably sets the album’s tone. When the cruising along, filthily noisy but restrained guitar and drum rhythms launch into the somewhat more upbeat, triumphant musical blasts that close out the song, which even includes a trumpet, one just about can’t help but fist-pump and sway right along.
The band have built a grippingly immersive musical haze that washes over the listener. They almost never sound like they’re too concerned with keeping their tones clean and crisp, but they always sound like they’re immensely concerned with crafting gripping groove in the midst of whatever noise they’ve concocted. On Stray, Bambara sound like they’ve thereby cracked open a new space where listeners can enjoy the self-confident bombast of the most swaggering rock and the cathartic exploration of the most chaotic noise meltdowns right alongside one another.
The lyrical stories seem consistently self-contained from song-to-song — standout single “Serafina,” for instance, relates a nihilistic adventure of the track’s namesake, who apparently got committed to some kind of institution as a pyromaniac but is now on the run with her lover in a frenzied escapade. Here and across the album, the music matches up with the stories pretty perfectly — “Serafina” proves one of the faster tracks on the record, with confident rhythm and deeply moving groove that feel like a kind of Hail Mary rallying cry thanks to the bombast and smoky-feeling musical haze combo. The song feels well-suited to speeding across a desert road with car windows rolled down — or at least imagining the experience.
Other stories get decidedly darker — album closer “Machete,” for instance, explores the story of someone temporarily running from past threats of violence. That song closes with the simple line that the speaker’s “not gonna run.” That mood defines the album quite effectively. The songs feel like subtle anthems for really digging into the muck, wherever it may be found.
Check out the music below! Stray is available via Wharf Cat Records.