Branko – Atlas (ALBUM REVIEW)

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Before covering Branko’s new album Atlas, let us cover a bit of ground. Fans of globally inspired dance music (think M.I.A.) will likely have already heard of the adventurous, and truly original kuduro/global dance band Buraka Som Sistema. If you don’t count yourself among that lucky group of listeners, they are highly recommended (give “Sound of Kuduro” a listen for a great starting point). The Portuguese group, which fused dance music with African indigenous sounds, has been around for 10 years and is in the midst of a going-into-hiatus tour. Their sound ranged across cultures but almost always wielded sharp, dance-influenced beats married with international collaborators (of which M.I.A. was one).

Moving on, then: Atlas is the new album from João Barbosa, a.k.a. Branko, one of the creative driving forces of Buraka Som Sistema (BSS). Atlas is a compelling, approachable album featuring 20 collaborators from around the world. Indeed, the making of the album took place over five weeks as Branko traveled from Lisbon, Lisbon, São Paulo, NYC, Amsterdam, and finally Cape Town to work with more than 20 artists exploring a multitude of genres. The album floats across a web of intriguing and wide-ranging sounds, compelled throughout with an almost-always danceable drum track. Some tunes play with oft-ethereal, traditional instruments or vocalizations, as with eponymous album opener “Atlas” or “Fluxo” (which features the rapping of Mr. MFN eXquite, DonCesao & DJ Sliink), or “Whole Night.” Others, such as “Paris” or “On Top,” both of which course with an exotic, sexy heaviness, could easily pulse behind the gauzy façade of a lounge in any of a number of global nightclub.

Fans of BSS will likely enjoy this album. Similarly, if you’ve enjoyed Santogold, MC Solaar, Nitin Sawhney, or M.I.A. you’ll likely find this another great addition to your ethnically-influenced, eminently danceable library.

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